I’ve been called a turkey junkie and turkey thug. I even had one guy call me a spring snowbird. I never understood that one. Regardless, I’m trying to convey my love for the wild turkey, which runs deep. Though it terrifies me to think about hunting only one critter for the rest of my days, if I had to choose, it would be the King of Spring. Which leads us to an important topic—scouting for turkeys with cell cams.
During my turkey tenure, I’ve amassed some excellent tips and tricks. Some have to do with calling, and others with decoy style and placement. One tactic I didn’t start utilizing until recently, though, is how much intel cell-cam scouting (where legal) can provide for finding and killing spring birds.
Patterning Spring Turkeys
Over the years, I’ve penned many articles about springtime turkey pursuits, and one point I tend to drive home is how patternable turkeys can be in specific geographic locations, especially during certain times of the year.
I spend many days each spring chasing longbeards with a bow in hand. While I love running and gunning with my bow-mounted turkey decoy, typically, I end up spending many hours in a ground blind. Over 25 years of chasing turkeys with archery tackle, I have discovered that if I can find where the birds want to be and be there before they arrive, my odds of success go way up.
This tip holds especially true on days when the wind howls, Mother Nature blows in a cold front, or the turkeys just don’t seem as responsive to my H.S. Strut calls. These days, being in a strut zone, loafing area, or along a favorite food source is typically the way to go.
In years past, I used turkey signs—tracks, strut marks, droppings, etc.—to find areas where I believed turkeys to be concentrating. I still do this, as there is no substitute for good woodsmanship. But when I see these locations, my go-to is to toss up a Muddy Manifest 2.0 Cellular Trail Camera to confirm my suspicions. (Again, in states where the cell cameras are legal.) More to come on this economical, innovative camera, but first, let’s touch on the turkey knowledge it can provide you.
Go Cellular for Longbeards
The fantastic thing about a cellular camera is that it will send images to your smartphone. When the turkey pics start rolling in, I toss them in my HuntStand app. When logged into a Hunt Area, it has a Trail Cams tab (on the bottom of your screen toward the righthand side). Label your cameras and drop in the photos. Nothing will help keep photos more organized and accessible than this HuntStand feature.
My rule is that if turkeys show up in an area two days in a row, I’m there on the third day. You’ll be shocked at how much information you can glean and, often, how consistent turkeys are.
On a recent turkey bowhunt in the Cornhusker State, my hunting partner and I experienced bitter weather conditions. The low on the hunt was 12 degrees Fahrenheit, and the high was 52 degrees Fahrenheit. We had snow, rain, and wind—not the sun-soaked days we all dream of. Still, my Muddy Manifest 2.0 Cellular Trail Camera had us in the chips.
During our first day of scouting, we glassed a lone jake slipping through an open fence gap that led from a likely roost site to a cut cornfield. I sprinted in and hung a Muddy cam. Over the next two days, more pics rolled in, and when it was my turn to bat, we set a ground blind 20 yards off the fence gap. I placed a trio of decoys that included Avian’s LCD Half-Strut Jake, LCD Laydown Hen, and LCD Feeder Hen. It was go time.
An hour later, and within a 30-minute timeframe of most of the birds using the fence gap, two jakes rushed in and flogged the LCD Half-Strut Jake. Seconds later, from the grassy prairie behind the blind, a big old rope swinger ran in, and my arrow was accurate.
Put That Camera on Your Blind
Another cell cam scouting tip is mounting the cell camera to your ground blind. I have driven posts in the ground and then set the blind over the post, but Muddy’s Manifest 2.0 is so compact I can cinch it down to one of the blind’s crossbars, manipulate it with a small stick, and hang it tightly on my ground blind.
Why? Getting pictures of your bowhunt is cool, but I know many turkey hunters that set ground blinds out and leave them from March to May. If you take the time to put a cell camera on each of your blinds, you know the exact when and where turkey activity that’s taking place in front of them.
Ignore the Haters
I have received more than one super-nice (being sarcastic) Instagram message from hunters who believe using cell cameras for turkey scouting and hunting is unfair. I disagree.
If cell cameras are legal in your state, there is no better scouting tool. You still must exercise sound woodsmanship and place the cams where they will get images of turkeys. What they do for the hunter is provide up-to-date confirmation of your suspicions and help you develop the best plan possible.
The good news is it’s not too late. Even if you don’t own a cell cam, you can log into Muddy Outdoors and start shopping. Currently, you can grab a Manifest 2.0 Cellular for $79.99. As mentioned, this camera is fantastic and not intimidating for a first-time cell cam user. Download Stealth Cam’s Command App, snap a picture of the QR Code, and the app will walk you through the setup. It takes seconds, and for $15 a month, unlimited clear and crisp images are delivered directly to your smartphone.
If you hunt turkeys, chances are good you hunt America’s favorite game animal, the whitetail deer. For most whitetail fanatics, cell cameras have become the most critical piece of their recon puzzle. My buddy in Nebraska runs 15 cell cameras during the fall. Although his monthly bill is quite extensive, he kills big bucks and learns so much about deer and deer behavior.
Knowing where turkeys are going and being there before they get there gives you another tool in your tool belt. Some days, turkeys don’t seem to have a love fest. The calls won’t bring them close. So, get where they are going, set some decoys, stay quiet, and stick a bird or two.