How to Set Up Trail Cameras for Turkey Season

I hope that someday there will be a listening device that you can put on a tree that detects a turkey gobbling and gives you a bearing and a distance.  Until that day comes, we are going to have to do a little scouting to figure out where that spring gobbler is spending most of his time.  On my SE Minnesota hunting property I have a good idea of where the turkeys roost because I’ve hunted there many years, but on some new properties I will use trail cameras to help do some of the scouting for me.

What I like to do first is determine where the most likely strutting zones are.  I will do this by setting up a camera overlooking an open field and put that camera in time lapse mode.  If you need to, use a ladder, step stool, or tree steps to get your camera high enough to see the whole field.  I like to record the first 3 hours of daylight and the last 3 hours.  I’m sure I might miss a few birds moving through in midday, but it saves me from having to look through hundreds of additional images just to catch that sporadic midday movement.  I like to put 3 minutes between pictures as that gives me 20 pics an hour to look through.  There is software available that can cycle all of your images quickly to make it look like a video is playing, which helps see patterns of the movement at that location.

When turkeys use a field, they don’t always do the same exact thing from day to day, depending on the time of year and the type of field.  Usually the hens pick their way across a field eating bugs or waste grain and the toms simply follow the hens.  Having cameras out helps you see if the birds are still grouped up or if they are more scattered.  If you get an idea of the entry point of a group of turkeys using an area, you can determine where to set up your decoys.  It’s always easier to decoy turkeys into a spot they know well rather than pulling them into unknown territory.  You can also adjust which decoys to use based on the flock size you see on your cameras.  Here is a good link to help you decide what decoys to use.

There is one spot on a farm I hunt that always has turkeys near it.  It’s a “U” shaped field and the turkeys always hang out at the point of the field where they can see both segments of the field at once.  If you hunt hill country, there are places on the top of ridges where the field may turn and those are also great places to position scouting cameras.  Scouting for roosting trees can also help you kill a bird this spring.  Look for large trees with easy branches for turkeys to hang on, and look at the ground for turkey scat.  You can also listen for turkeys gobbling on the roost in the morning, just be mindful not to get too close or you will spook them.

-Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist

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