Public land hunters know that avoiding the crowds is half the battle. How you do that then becomes paramount to being more successful, and sometimes it’s just a matter of not doing what others do. Most hunters don’t venture too far from the roadside when scouting, so birds that are visible from a vehicle will invariably draw a crowd. Most hunters also roost their birds in the evening before a hunt by owl-hooting to elicit a shock gobble. Birds that respond will also draw more attention. There is an alternative strategy that can help you find more birds that are less visible and less vocal to the average hunter. It’s called triangulation.
You need to start your pre-season scouting early, not on the calendar but on the clock. Rise at the same time you will when the season opens and head to your potential hunting grounds, arriving well before fly-down time. Once there, simply get out and listen. Turkeys are most vocal while still on their morning roost, and they’re stationary.
The next step requires maps. You can use onX or whatever mapping app you prefer, but a good old fashioned paper topo map works as well. From your location, draw a straight line to the approximate location where you hear a gobbling bird, or birds. Then pack up and move to a new location.
You want to divide hunting areas into blocks, which is much easier to do in areas where roads are laid out on a more or less perpendicular grid pattern. As you travel away from your first gobbles, take the first available turn onto a road or trail that is at more or less a right angle to the one you’re on - left if the bird was on your left and vice versa. Now stop and repeat step one. This should get you close, but one more stop will seal the deal.
If you can make another more or less right angle turn while still remaining within hearing distance, do so. Travel a short distance, then repeat step one. Your map will now have three lines originating from three distant locations - the farther apart the better. And the intersection of those three lines is a fairly precise location of the roost. Without leaving the roadside, and more importantly, without disturbing the birds, you now know where they sleep.
Make a few more pre-dawn visits to see how faithful the birds are to a particular location, then go afield in the middle of the day to scout the terrain and cover, and mark waypoints for some strategic set-up locations. When opening day arrives, all you have to do is get there early enough to beat the competition, set up your decoys and get ready for the action.