I love to hunt spring gobblers but my passion for whitetail hunting is beyond explanation. Often I find myself turkey hunting in the spring, but my focus is really scouting big woods bucks. This is what I call killing a gobbler and a buck with one stone! And it really puts more excitement into your spring hunting and scouting adventures.
Boots on the Ground
I’m a very mobile turkey hunter. That style really benefits my ability to hunt turkeys and scout whitetails at the same time. Stationary turkey hunting may be the most popular method of turkey hunting, but I don’t believe it’s always the most successful strategy. Certainly, if a hot gobbler is answering my calls, I’m not going anywhere. But when the birds aren’t talking, I’m on the move!
I know a lot of other hunters keep their eyes open for whitetail sign when they hunt spring turkey, but still the focus is mainly on turkeys. You can gain so much from combining your spring turkey hunting into deer scouting missions without really sacrificing your chances of success killing a tom.
All of my hunting is on huge pieces of public land. This really bodes well with my style for turkey hunting/whitetail scouting. I cover a ton of ground in the spring. Many days I’m covering well over 10 miles. The spring time is such a great time of year to put a lot of miles on, learning areas and still being able to read and interpret deer sign. The more ground you cover, the more you learn. I’ve also found that by covering more ground I hear more gobblers as well!
Mountains and hill country are the best kind of terrain to do these combined missions. I’ll go from ridge to ridge, calling and trying to locate a hot gobbler. Then if nothing answers, my focus turns back to deer scouting.
It’s much easier and effective to do these combined adventures in hill country vs. agricultural ground or smaller woodlot types of forests. Fortunately I hunt nothing but mountains, and really that’s how I’ve had a lot of success on my combined turkey hunts. You need space and you can’t be scouting deer and watching field edges for strutting toms at the same time. The big woods/hill country is key.
I mainly stay on the tops of ridges, that way I always have a great vantage point for hearing gobblers. I also like to cruise up and down the same ridge that way I can listen and scout both sides of it at the same time. I do a lot of calling though. I stop and call about every 200 yards. In hill country, sound travels and muffles very inconsistency. Sometimes you may get a bird going from a half-mile out. Or it’s not uncommon that a tom may be gobbling 300 yards away, but you won’t hear him. Sometimes even closer due to the terrain or wind. The same goes for gobblers hearing your calling. They may not hear you unless you are right on top of them. Or they may hear you from a mile out. So stop and call a lot, and make sure you listen for several minutes each time.
Points seem to be the best terrain feature to listen from. Whenever you come to a point, it often is overlooking another series of valleys and ridges. Take advantage of these spots when you come to them. Everytime you get to call and listen over new terrain, there's a good chance of a tom you haven't heard from yet.
Another great reason for running the ridges is that’s where a lot of your big buck sign will be. We all know bucks love ridges, especially the upper thirds of them. You’ll also come into a lot of buck bedding on the upper parts of ridges. In fact, I’ve found some of my best bucks and buck hunting spots while I was spring turkey hunting. Hill country generally offers great habitat for whitetail and turkeys. Turkeys love ridges for roosting as well as feeding. It creates the perfect playing field for the hunter who wants to hunt turkeys and scout whitetails at the same time.
Trail Cams, Ropes, Minerals and More
I like to use a big turkey hunting vest, not because I’m carrying a ton of calls, but I got whitetail gear to bring as well! I always pack a couple trail cams along with rope for mock scrapes and usually a few pounds of salt to make a mineral site. Don’t forget wire or paracord for hanging those licking branches either!
You can get ahead of the whitetail game so much by getting all these things done while you are turkey hunting. And they don’t take a lot of time and effort either. How many times do you find a hotspot to hang a camera when you are turkey hunting but you don't have one with you? I know it’s happened to me many times. It’s not always easy to find time in the summer to go back into areas and do these things. So combining all this work into a day of turkey hunting is going to pay off big time.
You can also pick trees for stand sites as well as cut shooting lanes. This not only saves you time in the fall, but doing this work now will not educate and put pressure on the deer you are hunting. They won’t remember you were ever there by time next deer season rolls around.
There’s just so much that can be done in the whitetail woods during the spring that can make you a better deer hunter and increase your odds for the upcoming season. Many hunters sort of shut off that part of their brains that thinks about whitetail hunting and put all of their focus on turkey hunting. But with little to no effect on your turkey hunting success, it can all be combined into one thing and definitely up your odds for the next whitetail season!
Author: Exodus Black Hat Team Member Steve Sherk of Sherk's Guide Service