Skip to main content

Mix Turkey Hunting & Whitetail Scouting

Mix Turkey Hunting & Whitetail Scouting

While recently recording an episode for a podcast I’m working on, my guest and I got on the subject of time in the woods and what it means to the whitetail hunter. This isn’t revolutionary stuff, but where it took an interesting turn is when we got onto the topic of springtime hunts and how they can influence fall success in the deer woods.

Throughout our conversation it occurred to me that the largest buck I’ve ever killed, a public-land 10-pointer with serious palmation, ended up wearing my tag because of a turkey hunt a few years prior. In fact, more than a few of my best whitetails have hit the dirt because of what I’ve learned while turkey hunting, and now I plan run-and-gun style hunts just to visit new areas under the guise of gobbler hunting. I am, of course, looking for a longbeard, but that’s not the sole goal of these trips.

The other purpose is to find quality whitetail spots. Here’s how.

Spring Scouting With Distractions

The idea behind spring scouting for whitetails is to simply cover ground while deciphering last year’s sign. Simple. The problem with spring scouting, however, is that most of us don’t - or won’t - do it. The carrot is hanging way too far in front of our noses to get us out there, and so we pass on the opportunity.


three whitetail does feeding in opening
While running and gunning with a shotgun is a better way to learn potential deer ground during turkey season, you can still glean plenty of info from a blind if you decide to bowhunt.

If you’ve got a nonresident turkey tag in your pocket and a 12-gauge stuffed with magnums, you might not feel that way. While you will (hopefully) be distracted by longbeards, you’ll also likely have plenty of incentive to cover serious ground, run across a few sheds and rubs, and learn what a property has to offer.


That’s not nothing.

This spring, for example, I’ve got a late-season tag for Iowa. I’m sitting on enough deer points to draw any unit I want but am lacking in public-land confidence. Hopefully by the time the May drawing for deer kicks in, I won’t have that problem. I’m going to run-and-gun down there to see if I can find a place worthy of the price of a deer tag and 10 days of my time in November.

What About Bowhunting?

So you don’t want to jelly-head a gobbler with a bunch of lead shot? I get it. I rarely shotgun hunt turkeys these days unless it’s on a dual-purpose hunt designed to learn deer ground. If you refuse to pick up the scattergun, don’t fret. You can still learn a lot about fall deer through spring gobbler hunting.

The previously mentioned numero uno buck in my life happened because I spent a few days turkey hunting a specific ridge. The view from my blind let me watch for approaching toms but also see deer coming and going from food to bed and bed to food. They passed through a patch of cedars often, and when I first hunted the spot for deer I arrowed a good eight pointer as he emerged from that small patch. Two years later, I shot the bigger buck in the same patch - largely because of what I witnessed in deer activity while sitting in my camo prison.


Remember You’ll Forget

Whatever app you use to navigate, use it to mark promising spots. I used to drink copious amounts of whiskey so it’s been a long time since I trusted my memory, and because of that and just what life has taught me otherwise, I mark waypoints for everything interesting. There are several apps that allow you to do this, and I tend to lean on onX pretty heavily.

whitetail shed antler laying in foliage
Spring scouting is beneficial to all deer hunters, but most won’t do it. That’s why a combo turkey hunt and scouting trip is great motivation to get out there and learn new whitetail ground.

I like being able to drop various waypoints and then write notes about them. It’s not enough to pepper a map with “good spots” if you can’t remember why they were good. I note things like available stand trees, what wind directions would work best, and if I feel a spot has an edge as far as seasonal timing is concerned. For example, if something looks like a killer rut pinch point, I don’t want to show up there on September 15 thinking it’s a done deal.

Turkey Timing

If I’m going to run-and-gun public land, I like later in the season for overall turkey success. Usually the crowds have thinned, the gobblers have dispersed, and you’ve got plenty of cover to slip from setup to setup. The downside to this is that last year’s deer sign will have either disappeared some, or at least become muted by the new growth.


Understand this while you’re working on the details of your trip. If you can make an early trip work and are truly interested in scouting new deer ground, go. If you can’t, or are leaning toward making sure you get another rope for the beard board, that’s okay. You’ll be able to figure plenty of stuff out in May that will benefit you plenty come deer season.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gordon

Gordon's First NAW Hunt

This segment features Gordon Whittington's very first on camera hunt for North American Whitetail.

Why Plant Warm-Season Food Plots for Deer

Why Plant Warm-Season Food Plots for Deer

Learn how and why planting warm-season food plots can benefit you and your deer herd.

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

On this edition of "Deer Factory," Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss tactics for establishing warm-season food plots.

Gear Wise: All About Trail Cameras

Gear Wise: All About Trail Cameras

Clint McCoy discusses the advancements in trail camera technology over the years and how the high-tech units available today can help you become a better deer hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer? Whitetail

Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer?

Josh Honeycutt

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot Gear

Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot

Mark Kayser

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.

Low carb and keto-friendly, this recipe for venison jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon is a great appetizer to serve at your next BBQ or cookout.Bacon-Wrapped Venison Jalapeno Poppers Recipe Venison Recipes

Bacon-Wrapped Venison Jalapeno Poppers Recipe

Emilie Bailey

Low carb and keto-friendly, this recipe for venison jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon is a...

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

See More Trending Articles

More Off-Season

Bowhunters won't always be put in a perfect shot scenario, so they must learn to adapt.Consider Shot Angles During Preseason Archery Practice Off-Season

Consider Shot Angles During Preseason Archery Practice

Tony J Peterson

Bowhunters won't always be put in a perfect shot scenario, so they must learn to adapt.

Put the umbrella drink down. You'll still need the sunscreen, but the personal watercraft will have5 Warm-Season Improvements for Fall Success Off-Season

5 Warm-Season Improvements for Fall Success

Mark Kayser - May 10, 2016

Put the umbrella drink down. You'll still need the sunscreen, but the personal watercraft will...

Shooting a whitetail can be just as easy as shooting on the practice range. Remain calm, focus on shot execution, and trust your form.Bowhunting Practice! Focus On Accuracy Off-Season

Bowhunting Practice! Focus On Accuracy

Terry Wunderle - September 29, 2010

Shooting a whitetail can be just as easy as shooting on the practice range. Remain calm, focus...

Smart shed hunting could be the last piece of the puzzle.Shed Hunting to Find a Buck's Core Area Off-Season

Shed Hunting to Find a Buck's Core Area

Dan Cole

Smart shed hunting could be the last piece of the puzzle.

See More Off-Season

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now