Spot and Stalk Turkey Series
Journal Entry 2: Just before the hunt
By Jim Bulger, Hunter Outreach Program Coordinator
The intent of this trip, just prior to your actual planned hunt, is to relocate birds you found in March, see if their patterns have changed - and of primary importance - to verify that there are still birds in the area you plan to hunt.
A couple of things to consider with regard to this scouting trip:
You can elect not to do this trip and just plan to roll into you hunt during the first part of May as you had planned. If you had to drive a long distance and either camp or pay for a hotel room, it may not be worth the extra cost and effort. You could simply plan to arrive mid-morning to set in your camp, hunt the afternoon, and look to roost birds. If you cannot find birds, then you have to remain pretty mobile and start expanding your search while in the hunt mode.
Since the season has begun, bring a gun and your hunting gear so you can hunt while scouting. The key is to understand your purpose of this trip...which is to FIND BIRDS!
Locate The Birds
Recall our purpose for this trip is to locate the birds we plan to hunt. For much of the trip, we use the same considerations we used in that initial trip back in March. Head to the places you have scouted before to see if there is new activity. Look for scat, tracks, feathers, etc to validate that there are still birds present in the area. Plan to get up on the ridges and glass the bottoms and drainages to find birds.
As before, driving can expand your scouting area significantly. You can also change areas quickly. If you are not having any luck finding birds in a specific location, drive to the next set of ridges and begin again.
Reconnect With The Locals
Hopefully you made some contacts with the local folks during your trip in March. Check back in with them. Examples could include: local landowners, District Wildlife Officer (DWM), Postman, UPS driver or waste management driver. See if they have seen any birds and are willing to give you some locations. Remember these folks live here and travel the local roads almost daily. They will see a lot more than you can cover in a day or so of scouting.
Birds On Private Land
If you find birds holding on private lands, you can always ask permission of the landowner to hunt it. You may find that landowners are more likely to give you permission to hunt spring turkey than elk or deer. The challenge may be finding who owns the land so you can gain permission. A few tips might help you in your quest.
Find the place on a good map (Gazetteer or USGS map) and mark it so you can explain the location to another person. If there are local road markers at the road intersections, record the names of the roads so you can use them as a reference. Take that information and start looking for local residents to help you identify the owner. If there are residents close by your desired location, you are in luck, as many times they will know who owns the land. If no local residents, see if the DWM or a local sheriff deputy can help you determine the owner.
In the past few years, high-tech has replaced the need to go to a city hall or county court house to pull a Plat/Parcel Map of the area to determine the name and address of the owner who is paying taxes on the property. Now, you can purchase a data chip for your GPS from several retail sources that will give you the name of the registered owner of a parcel of land. Once you have the name of the landowner, you can use your mobile device (IPAD, Smart Phone, etc) to search for the address of the owner and in some cases, you can get a phone number. This is a bit of work, but if it pays off by gaining permission to hunt, it might be worth the effort.
Finalize The Plan
Recall the purpose of this trip is scouting to validate what you have already done. If you found birds and were able to harvest one, SUPER! If you did not find birds, but you saw good sign of recent activity and believe a return to hunt is warranted, head home, finalize the plans for your hunt and begin the preparation for the hunt you are planning during those precious days of vacation in May.
Your objective now is to maximize the amount of time you can hunt during those planned days versus trying to find something to hunt. Your typical day will begin at 3:30 in the morning (even if you are staying near your hunting area) and end about 10:30 PM by the time you try to roost birds and get back to camp. Long days. Plan them out to be as efficient as you can. Take breaks, naps and eat/drink. MAKE IT FUN!
Next up in the articles, we can talk about the May hunt. While there are a few ways to hunt these birds, we will talk "spot and stalk" as a more unique manner of hunting wild turkey in Colorado. Go check your boots and gear. Time to go hunt!