Turkey Hunting Tactics: Scouting Deer, Chasing Toms

When you’re in the woods turkey hunting, try these top seven spring whitetail scouting tips

By Brian Lovett, Editor, Turkey & Turkey Hunting

Just because you’re chasing a big longbeard in April doesn’t mean your deer hunter’s heart has strayed far from fall. If you’re a serious whitetail fanatic, you’re always looking for clues, no matter the season.

Here are seven quick tips to help you scout for deer this spring while you’re turkey hunting.

Deer antler shed 1

Finding shed antlers during turkey season should be a tipoff about deer in the area.

Keep an eye out for sheds: Sure, by the time turkey season rolls around, shed hunters or woodland critters have probably found most of the shed antlers at your hunting spot, but you never know. This is especially true in the North, where there might still be snow cover when early turkey seasons open. Look for the glistening white of antlers in creek bottoms, fencerows, travel corridors and feeding areas.

Therein lies the rub: It’s amazing how rubs stick out before the woods really green up. A signpost that you might have missed amid thick early-fall foliage suddenly gleams like a beacon in spring. I’ll often look for rubs along likely funnels and thick edge cover, and then follow the rub lines to see what path bucks used to travel between bedding and feeding areas.

Travel corridors: Much like rubs, well-worn trails seem to stand out in spring before being obscured by undergrowth and green shoots. If you find a beaten path from thick cover to that bean field that was thick with deer the previous fall, you’ve scored a scouting coup.

The core (area) of the matter: Yes, absolutely stay out of a buck’s core area in summer and fall to make sure he’s comfortable. However, a few forays during turkey season won’t hurt much. If you’re prospecting for gobblers along the edge of thick cover and jump deer, make a mental note. You might have just stumbled onto the big boy’s bedroom.

Funnels: As you walk through the greening woods, you’ll have ah-ha moments about how critters — deer and turkeys — use the terrain. You might notice a small saddle between ridges or a timbered point that stretches into a crop field. How did you not see those the previous fall? Who knows? But remember them for the upcoming season.

Stand locations: It’s never too early to fine-tune stand locations and placement. As you sit below a favored tree, you might notice a natural shooting lane you hadn’t seen a few months earlier. Or, if turkeys go silent at midday, you might take the opportunity to trim a few limbs and fine-tune the angle of your setups. Why procrastinate?

Plain Old Observation: Years ago in Iowa, a friend and I sat and yelped in a gorgeous timbered bottom. Suddenly, he whispered to me, and I looked up to see two huge whitetails already sporting great growth.

“I never knew those bucks were in the area,” he said later. Don’t ignore the obvious. If you see deer during turkey season — especially bucks sporting new growth — file away that info.

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