How to Find Roosted Turkeys and Put Them to Rest

Roosting gobblers is an old tradition and hunting tactic that works if you’re stealthy enough to get close the next morning without spooking the bird and then can bring him within range.

Finding roosted birds and making hay with them the next morning is different with each sub-species of turkey. (Photo: Stephen Bauer/NWTF)

Finding roosted birds and making hay with them the next morning is different with each sub-species of turkey. (Photo: Stephen Bauer/NWTF)

Sometimes roosting a gobbler pays off with feathers flying and a smiling hunter. Other times, the gobbler may fly the opposite direction and you’re stuck with a pocketful of hopes and dashed dreams. Roosting turkeys isn’t an automatic guarantee but it definitely can give you a starting point for the next day.

Here are some roosting pattern insights and tips for each of the four major wild turkey subspecies we hunt. 

Eastern — In the Midwest, East and Northeast, oaks (especially white oaks) and basswood make prime roosts, as do surviving elms. Eastern cottonwoods are good, too. Pines and other conifers are often chosen in inclement (rainy or snowy) or cold weather. In the South and Southeast, cypress, sycamore, live oak and loblolly pine are important roost trees. 

Merriam’s — Ponderosa pine is a preferred nesting tree across Merriam’s range. This subspecies prefers an open area (instead of dark, thick forest) for the good visibility provided as birds approach the roost in the evening and come down in the morning. Look for good-sized trees spread out across a pasture or meadow. 

Rio Grande — Because they typically occupy open or prairie habitat, Rios exhibit extreme roosting flexibility and adaptability. The tallest tree in the environment will get attention. Often this means cottonwoods along a river or creek, or a patch of live oaks on southern Rio habitat. Pecans, willows and cedars are also used. But Rios have been known to roost on power lines, power poles, windmills and oil derricks.

Osceola — Florida turkeys are partial to cypress trees over shallow water, as well as pines. This subspecies likes its roost in or near an opening or clearing, such as the pastures that are so common in Osceola country.

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