Ideally for me, if I know turkeys use the land I hunt, I stay out of the place till I walk in with my shotgun to hunt them. I want it to be a surprise when they hear that last putt and stretch their neck up for me. The problem is in the "knowing" they are there. Sometimes, they just ain't where they were last year or the year before that.
If it's new land, I want to go in and familiarize myself with it, stealthily. But I don't think I've scouted anywhere for many years - other than scouting with gun in hand. Probably mostly because I live so far away from where I hunt. But also because I don't like to muddy the waters I plan on drinking.
The bad thing about not scouting is that if you don't know the land at all, you can easily get in a bad situation when you try to move on a gobbler. I once set up on a couple hot gobbling birds, only to find out later on that they were in the next state across the Savannah River. Deep water is always something you are better off knowing about before you try hunting the turkeys that live there. I once went to tremendous difficulty to get across a wide, deep creek while going after a gobbling bird, only to find someone was already set up on him. And getting back across was even harder.
There have been multiple times I've had a wall of briers or something blocking my approach and costing me valuable time and position during that critical moment when I was trying to set up on a roost gobbling bird. I once had to crawl through a wet ditch on my hands and knees because it was the only way I could see to get to the bird that was in there behind the thicket of thorns and saplings that I didn't know were there. I could have just walked around it if I'd been familiar with the land, and saved myself a lot of angst and discomfort. But hey, I made memories!
Another fond memory of not scouting was the time a new beaver pond that wasn't there ten years ago (the last time the guy whose land it was on was in there - I was trying to help him get his first bird) was between us and the roost gobbling bird. That story ended well though, in spite of him falling in the pond while we walked across the beaver dam trying to get to the bird. It was nothing short of miraculous that we killed that bird. And you can't count on miracles working for you too often when it comes to killing turkeys.
Trying to maneuver up the side of a mountain through the laurel thickets to a gobbling bird is another fond memory I have about not scouting. Finding heavy equipment had been in there all week digging and cutting is another not-scouting surprise I've found. Another is finding out they timbered the land, after getting up at dark thirty and driving 2 hours to get there on opening day by gobbing time. So, not scouting definitely has a down side.
And if the birds just aren't there that year, you waste valuable hunting time showing up and expecting some action.
The good thing is that once you know the birds are using an area, and the habitat doesn't change much, chances are fairly good they will be using that area into the future. I have this one place that I found birds using in the middle of the day back in 2010, and killed at least one bird there through 2015. It was a reliable place to bring a kid or newbie. Then last year - they were gone. So, you never know....
I scout a lot on Google Earth though. Mostly daydreaming, but occasionally figuring out something that does you some good.
Anyway, this time of year, scratching and tracks are probably the easiest thing to find. That brings to mind another fond memory of the Ghost Gobbler's tracks....