One of the most important parts of turkey hunting, whether it be the pre-season, early season, or late season, is locating consistent turkey roosting sites. These sites can differ according to the time of year. In my time as a turkey hunter, I have hunted mountainous terrain, such as the Appalachians and I have hunted a lot of farmland.
Turkey Roosting Sites
The one thing both of these topographies have in common is that a vast majority of its most mature trees grow near water. And by water, I mean ponds, swamps, small lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks. Especially in areas with a lot of farm ground, you will find that a lot of turkeys roost along rivers. This is because so many large and mature trees favor that area, and coincidently turkeys favor those trees. Anytime I find a large tree that stands out amongst the others, especially if I know there are turkeys in the area, I check under it for turkey droppings, scratching, and feathers.
Another great place to look for turkey roosts is eastern-facing slopes, edges, wood lines, etc. Turkeys will tend to roost with the sun on their backs. It’s just like us, we don’t like to look directly into the sun. Neither do turkeys. The sun will rise in the east; therefore, they will fly up facing east and fly down facing west. A perfect example is the bird I killed last year in Indiana. He tended to favor woods that was about 20 acres in size. Because of this, I knew I could pinpoint exactly where he was roosting. Before the season, I walked the area and found his roosting tree almost immediately. It was a large oak tree, considerably bigger than all the others around it, and it had lots of branches. Underneath I found wing feathers and turkey scat. This tree was located along a mid-sized waterway that almost always held water. Later in March when birds began to gobble, I put all my focus on him. Sure enough, every morning and every evening when I listened for him, he was in the same tree. I would watch him with binoculars, and he would always pitch down to the west, with the sun to his back. And that’s how I killed him. I got myself situated right next to his roost tree the evening of April 30th, and the rest is history.
Early Morning Gobbles
Probably the best way to pinpoint exactly where turkeys are roosting once the season approaches are simply listening for gobbling. Come the middle of March in the Midwest where I am from, when temperatures begin to warm and vegetation begins to sprout, turkeys tend to begin to gobble. From my experience, the best time to listen is in the early morning when birds are just starting to wake up. I have always found that birds gobble better in the mornings because they are “hotter” essentially. They are ready to fly down and strut or flock up with their hens. Finding where toms are gobbling first thing in the morning will tell you exactly where they are roosting. Knowing that will of course increase your odds of success come opening day. If you are dealing with turkeys that are slow to gobble, a good way to amp up what you are hearing is to use a locator call. Owl hooters, coyote howlers, crow calls, gobble calls, and even goose calls can all be a great way to get longbeards to shock gobble, thus giving away their location. I would advise not to overuse this method in the early season, as I have had birds become weary of it once the season comes in. However, used modestly it can be a fantastic way for locating heavily used turkey roosting sites.
So, as you have learned, there are a few good ways to go about locating turkey roosts. In the early season, finding water with mature trees nearby with scratching, feathers or turkey poop underneath is great. Really look for trees with lots of branches as well. Turkeys like having lots of branches because they love having lots of options. As time progresses and gobbling begins in your area, going out and merely listening for gobbles will greatly increase your odds of finding dominant roosts. As I mentioned before, if you deal with birds that don’t gobble much or maybe aren’t gobbling at all, using a locator call can be a great idea. Knowing where turkeys like to sleep, thus giving away the locations they favor for the early mornings and evenings, seriously increases your odds of success once the hunting begins.