The wild turkey and its ever-expanding range represent one of America’s greatest wildlife success stories. Areas of the country that — coinciding closely with the arrival of the first European settlers — saw the loss of the wild turkey now lay claim to the big birds once again.
Where suitable habitat exists, the birds have prospered. Farm country is not exempt from this trend. The wild turkey has spread to the fields and small woodlots we associate with areas of agriculture. At such places, their numbers are on the rise.
The experience of hunting the farm country gobbler is every bit as exciting, and is as exacting, as is hunting toms living in large tracts of forested hills and mountains. In fact, the bagging of a farm-country tom often rises to a level of difficulty somewhat above and beyond that of taking a bird in big woodlands — added challenge that only adds to the reward of filling your tag with a farmland tom.
Many farms are in lowland areas; others are on hillsides, even on mountaintops. But to hold turkeys, they all need to have one thing in common, a section of woods and it doesn’t have to be a large area, it just needs to be one that can provide the birds a roosting area. Tall trees with a mix of conifers offer the ideal enticement for turkeys to roost area.
Be it a spring, stream, water trough, lake or water-filled ditch, all farms have some source of water. And all farms where wild turkeys live provide the food sources that a turkey needs to survive. Otherwise, the birds simply wouldn’t be found there.
For actually finding the birds, it’s paramount that you scout a farm area just as you would scout the forests for big-woods turkeys. Scouting can be done at any time of year, for turkey you see in the fall will most likely inhabit the same area come spring.
Locating a springtime gobbler requires spending some pre-season evenings listening for gobbles; it may also necessitate putting some miles on your vehicle as you search for birds. You may even want to spend some time spent knocking on farmhouse doors and asking the residents if they know of any birds on the property. This is also an excellent time to seek permission to hunt, as you’re in the process of introducing yourself and making a favorable initial impression, anyway.
Once you locate some toms, you’ll be much better off come opening day if you’ve spent some time watching the birds from a distance. Stay hidden as you look for little habits peculiar to a particular tom. Perhaps he leaves his roosting area late, or goes to water early; maybe he struts the morning away on a certain piece of ground, or feeds in a certain section of a field.
Any hint of a pattern that you can discern through such observation will increase your odds of bagging that tom come the time that you actually hunt him. Don’t expect a tom to come running across open land to your first calls — it just doesn’t work out that way. Your best chance for success is to scout him and learn his habits and patterns.