Finding birds is one of the most important parts of preparing for spring turkey season, and it’s never too early to start.

Make it easier by using a combination of walking and driving to cover lots of ground, working out isolated trails and along ridges to call down into valleys and bowls. The goal is to locate as many birds as possible.

Try just listening first. This is the least conspicuous way to pinpoint toms.

If you don’t hear any, try locator calls such as owl, woodpecker, hawk, and crow sounds to startle a response from nearby toms. As a last resort, try hen calls. Once you pinpoint a bird, stop calling. You want to locate birds, not educate them or spook them before the season opens.

Don’t give up on a spot just because you didn’t hear anything one morning. If an area has potential, check it out several times in the weeks before the season opens. Birds may be there but just not gobble on a particular morning.

Another good approach is to climb to high observation spots such as ridge tops, fire towers or other areas where you can glass and search for turkeys in fields, natural meadows and open parts of woods. Bring a pair of binoculars so you can search a wide area.

Besides locating birds, it’s important to try to pattern them. After a bird gobbles, wait and see what it does. Where does it fly to when it leaves the roost tree? Does it head for a field, an oak flat, a nearby water hole?

Another thing to find out is where hens roost in relation to the gobblers. That’s often the direction they’ll head at first light. The more of these details you can pin down, the more likely you’ll be able to figure out the tom’s movement patterns and set up in the perfect spot.

Look for strutting areas, too. These are traditional spots where birds display their fans in front of hens year after year. Try to be at one of these locations shortly after sunrise. Also look out for gobbler droppings, scratched areas where the turkeys have fed, and dusting spots where the birds try to remove insects from their bodies.

Besides locating sign, scouting also lets you learn more about the topography and vegetation where you hunt. This will help when you need to move quickly on a bird, allowing you to predict the best setup location and get there fast.

Be sure to scope out fields, as well. Turkeys often gravitate to these openings for the bugs, tender green shoots and clover they find there. If you know where they typically enter from, you can set up and wait for them there.

Bring either a topo or hand-drawn map of the hunting area with you as you try to locate birds and do your scouting. Mark locations where gobblers call from, where hens roost, water sources, fields you see turkeys in, dusting spots, feeding areas, and strutting grounds. As you scout you’ll begin to see patterns that will help you set up in the location gobblers want to go to at a given time of day.

Knowing that is even more important than what gun you use or your calling skills for ensuring a successful spring gobbler hunt.