Improve your turkey hunt: use a trail cam

by Don Sangster | April 10, 2014

North American big game hunters have been using trail cameras for years, but they aren’t just for big game anymore. Turkey hunters can benefit in the same way by using trail cameras as a round-the-clock scouting tool to gather valuable information for opening day and throughout the turkey season.

Your eyes in the field
If you live near where you hunt, you’re able to spend a good amount of time doing pre-season scouting. You likely have turkey sightings during normal daily travels, which give you a good idea of where to set up on opening morning. But for many people, “turkey country” is more than an hour’s drive from home and scouting time often comes at a premium. This is when having trail cameras to be your eyes on the ground are essential.

Some of the latest camera models from UWay, SpyPoint and Reconyx have the capability to send pictures right to your smartphone, computer or tablet, which can save you time and gas money. Bushnell has a wireless HD trail cam that’s currently only available in the U.S. but hopes to bring a new offering to the Canadian market by the fall.

Trail cams can reveal how many turkeys are in your area and let you know if there is a boss tom, a bunch of jakes and hens, or one with a double beard. They can also show other creatures that may be around — a pack of coyotes looking for a turkey dinner, or a two-legged trespasser to be on the lookout for, for example.

Strategic placement
The 2 most strategic and informative places to install cameras are along the edges of feeding fields and near suspected roosting areas.

Place cameras so they overlook feeding areas and access points. This will confirm whether birds are using that feeding area and, if so, their daily travel and feeding habits. This will allow you to set up in those spots at the right time, while concentrating on other areas or properties the rest of your hunting day.

If you’re not quite sure where birds are entering a field, placing a few cameras around the perimeter will usually answer the question. This is key because it is easier to call a bird in to that area.

When birds become unresponsive to calling, your best bet is to wait in ambush somewhere along their travel corridor or at their ultimate destination, which a trail camera can help you determine.

Placing cameras near a suspected roosting site will confirm or debunk your suspicions about the area, and will tell you what time the birds enter and leave. Roosting sites can be good spots for a late-afternoon gobbler.

Season-long scouting
Be sure that your cameras are out at least a couple of weeks before opening day to ensure that you have lots of information by the time it matters.

If you hunt turkey in the fall, a trail camera can be even more important than in the spring. The fall is when birds tend to group in large flocks and getting a sense of their daily travel patterns can really make your hunt more efficient.

As a bonus, with deer season soon after that of fall turkey, your camera may also capture images of that big buck you spotted last year, or newcomers to the area.

Photos courtesy of Don Sangster and Michele Vardy.