Turkey hunting is a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, I’m obsessed with whitetail hunting. Every year when I’m chasing gobblers around the big woods of Pennsylvania, I scout new areas for whitetails. The two can go hand in hand if you like the run-and-gun style of turkey hunting that I’m accustomed to. I remember my dad telling me as a kid that if you find an area with turkeys, it will have deer, but the opposite isn’t always true. Turkeys require good food sources, but whitetails can live just about anywhere.
Finding New Whitetail Hotspots If you’re a diehard whitetail hunter, targeting turkey gives you the perfect excuse to kill two birds with one stone, if you will. You should consider turkey hunting in new areas where you’ve never deer hunted before. This allows you to look for buck sign while potentially bringing home some poultry for the freezer. Finding the time to cover all the postseason scouting ground on your list can be challenging, so I turkey hunt those overflow places that I didn’t have the opportunity to check out after deer season finished.
In addition to finding new places within your home state, this is also the time to scout that out-of-state place you’ve wanted to hunt whitetails in the fall. Being from Pennsylvania, deer hunting in Ohio makes sense for me due to the relatively short drive and quality of bucks. Turkey hunting on public land for a weekend will teach you a lot about deer hunting in the area. As you move from ridge to ridge, take your time and scout for deer. If you go early enough in the season before everything greens up, you can still see scrapes, rubs, and beds as if they were fresh.
Focusing on Points of Ridges In hill country, the points of ridges make excellent locations for buck and doe bedding. Turkeys also like to hang out in these areas. They often roost on the leeward side of the point to stay out of the wind during the night. Bucks tend to favor the leeward ridges and points during the day to take advantage of the winds and thermals.
Turkeys prefer open woods and fields more than thick cover, like whitetails. This means that you’ll likely find turkeys in the feeding areas for deer. If you aren’t actively on a gobbler and you find deer sign around these feeding areas, look for nearby thick cover to scout potential whitetail bedding locations. Don’t forget to mark these spots in your favorite GPS hunting app to come back to at a later date.
When I turkey hunt in hill country, I work my way around the tops of ridges and points rather than diving into the valleys. You can hear a turkey gobble much better from up high, and whitetails love the upper third of peaks. You should find ample amounts of buck sign in these locations.
Honing Your Skills Turkeys and whitetails are different critters, but you can learn things from turkey hunting that will improve your deer hunting skills. Turkeys have incredible eyesight and require you to be tactical with your movements. If you can consistently get into shooting range of turkeys without them spooking, you’ll do much better with not spooking that buck you’ve been after in November. Try to bow hunt turkeys without a ground blind if you want a challenge. Drawing on a turkey without alarming them and forcing them to take off is a remarkable skill.
Turkeys are obviously a much smaller target than deer. This requires precise arrow placement and lots of shooting practice. Many hunters wait until the summer months to shoot their bow and prepare for deer season. If you're bow hunting for turkeys, you must start shooting your bow much earlier to ensure that you’re as lethal as possible. Since many 3D archery events haven’t started by this time of the year, I recommend purchasing a movable target with small aiming points, like the Rinehart 18-1 or a 3D turkey target to become precise with your shooting. It should feel easy when you go back to shooting your 3D deer target.