Finding a fresh scrape is every deer hunter’s dream. As you discover freshly pawed ground with a licking branch overhead, you know that a good deer has been there and may return. Likewise, when you find scrape marks in soft soil, especially in roadways and open fields, you know that a gobbler has been strutting at that location and those scrapes indicate it probably will return.
The gobble of a spring tom is designed to attract females, much the same as other bird calls. Since turkeys aren’t monogamous, one tom will breed multiple hens. While hunting in Florida, I once observed a gobbler in the center of a small clearing, breeding numerous females. In between, the bird gobbled and strutted, no doubt making those tell-tale scrape marks in the sandy Florida soil.
Where to Find Them
Scouting turkey habitat thoroughly is one way to find strutting zones, yet that can put pressure on local turkeys and make them more wary as the spring season approaches. A better way is to use your ears. Normally, turkeys will gobble on the roost, fly down, and then move toward a place where they strut and gobble to attract hens. As mentioned, these locations usually have strut marks on the ground, good visibility, and a concentration of droppings and feathers. Gobbler droppings are larger than hens and often have a “j” shape.
Walking old logging roads is a great way to scout and allow you to cover lots of ground with little noise. If you hear a turkey gobbling in mid-morning, it is probably in a strutting zone. Note that location and be there in the morning or early afternoon.
Patience is Key
Strutting zones may not be near a roost tree, so you may have to be patient, allow the gobbler to fly from its roost and work toward you. If this turkey is vocal, staying put will much more difficult than you’ll first imagine. For pressured toms that seldom gobble, this patience may pay off with the monarch of the mountain.
If gobbles in the distance indicate a tom is getting closer, resist the temptation to call. Do you best to remain perfectly still and ready to shoot. If the tom doesn’t show, make soft clucks on a slate caller, just enough to gain a tom’s attention. If the surroundings are quiet, a few clucks can be heard by a tom at a great distance, but you must wait it out. Like hunting over a deer scrape, the physical sign of the animal’s presence helps to build confidence. Turkey scrapes are secret spots, so be patience and let it happen.
Not One and Done
Unlike deer scrapes that are often made once by a deer on the move or at night when they are unhuntable, turkey scrapes should be visited every day. Unless a predator or another hunter disturbs the gobbler, it should make a daily appearance. Strut zones aren’t usually abandoned, so if you get no action, try to find another.