The way to Hunt Pure Merriam’s Turkeys within the West

Whenever you consider turkey searching, likelihood is the phrase journey doesn’t spring to the forefront of your mind. Chasing gobblers is a ton of enjoyable and a favourite springtime custom, however most of those hunts aren’t particularly adventurous. You’re in all probability not going hike by means of towering peaks or spend every week within the backcountry sleeping in a bivy sack and packing every little thing in your again. That’s, until you step outdoors the norm, seize your scattergun, and head for the Rockies or for the huge canyonlands of the West searching for a white-tipped Merriam’s. 

As a Colorado native, I’ve chased screaming bull elk in no-name drainages that had been so steep you needed to lean ahead into the mountain to maintain from tumbling backward. Final season, I scouted for 19 straight days and hunted for 3 to take a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. I do know journey searching, and I promise that the nomadic Merriam’s subspecies of untamed turkey will provide you with all of the western journey you need after which some. And if you happen to’re one of many many turkey nuts attempting to fill a slam and are after a real, pure Merriam’s, with no trace of hybridization, that is the place to seek out one. Right here’s what you’ll want to know.

Western Turkeys Are Like Elk: The First Step Is to Discover Them

photo of a turkey hunter calling
As soon as you discover mountain birds, don’t be afraid to name aggressively to them. Jace Bauserman

I’ve discovered piles of Rio Grande and Japanese birds on public floor all through the West by driving perimeter roads or climbing ridges and glassing comparatively small properties. These birds usually are not at all times simple to kill, however the panorama they inhabit makes them fairly simple to seek out. That’s not the case for western Merriam’s. The toughest factor about tagging these birds is simply discovering one.

Mountain-dwelling Merriam’s are nomadic, opportunistic feeders that like to wander. Final season, whereas scouting for birds within the Rockies, my searching accomplice and I watched a pair of toms pitch down from a monstrous ponderosa pine and stroll greater than 2 miles earlier than we might now not preserve monitor of them. Throughout their morning jaunt, the birds climbed three mountain slopes. Why? They’d no hens. Merriam birds, particularly in sure areas, are very unfold out. Toms will wander miles searching for a hen. So, one key to being a constant Merriam mountain killer is to hike miles and miles and be ready to sleep underneath the spring stars.

The birds don’t spend their complete 12 months in excessive nation, after all. They congregate in personal lowland areas in the course of the bitter winter months, together with cattle pastures, low-elevation meadows, and agriculture fields. When spring temperatures start melting the snow, birds transfer up into the mountain slopes. Throughout the early season, they’ll dwell slightly below the snow line. Relying on timing and snowmelt, I’ve discovered mountain birds anyplace between 6,500 and 10,250 toes. Later within the spring, when the one remaining snow is protecting mountain peaks, Merriam birds will climb excessive, the place the latest inexperienced shoots are rising and bugs are in every single place.

Driving forest entry roads to seek out Merriam’s isn’t a nasty concept, as chances are you’ll glass up birds or discover tracks within the snow lining street edges. Most frequently, nevertheless, it’s greatest to do what you’d do on a mountain elk or mule deer hunt, which is toss a pack in your again loaded with a day’s value of provides and stretch your legs. 

Hear Intently and Preserve Transferring

photo of turkey hunter on bike
The writer with a backcountry Merriam’s gobbler he situated and reached with the assistance of a mountain bike. Jace Bauserman

As you hike, preserve a watch peeled for tracks, droppings, and turkey feathers. But additionally pay attention When roaming the mountains or canyonlands, I usually discover birds with my ears. Merriam gobblers like to throw their necks out and let it rip. Every time I prime a ridge, plateau, or slight rise, I cease and pay attention. If I don’t hear a chook, I ship a number of loud yelps or blow on my hawk-screech locator name. This name cuts the western wind and can rattle a chook’s cage from a great distance off.  When yelping, begin mushy to make sure you don’t blow out a close-by gobbler. After that, get loud. A raspy field name or glass- or aluminum-face pot name is the ticket. Remember that Merriam’s birds have the weakest gobble of all subspecies. I’ve watched a number of birds stretch their neck and gobble by means of my optics however not been capable of hear them. So if doable, get the wind in your favor (blowing towards you), and also you’ll have a greater likelihood of listening to a gobble.

When searching Merriam’s turkeys on western public floor, working out of room isn’t a fear. Public acreages are often measured in hundreds of acres. Because of this, if you happen to’re trying to get wild, strap a multi-day pack on our again and go deep. Years in the past, after spending a whole day mountaineering and searching and never seeing or listening to a chook, I pitched camp and slept underneath the celebrities. The next morning, after strolling 5 miles into the top of a canyon, I discovered 12 Merriam’s gobblers and a passel of hens. I used to be 14 miles from the truck, and I’m assured these birds had by no means seen one other human earlier than. 5 of the 12 longbeards got here working to a single hen yelp. 

Not solely can you discover remoted turkey hotspots by going deep, however likelihood is good you’ll discover some wonderful deer and elk spots you possibly can plug into your digital mapping app for later. I at all times use western springtime turkey hunts to seek out nice deer and elk grime. 

As soon as You Discover Turkeys, Don’t Overthink Your Technique

photo of hunter with wild turkey
The writer with one other good Mountain Merriam’s. Jace Bauserman

Merriam’s birds reply exceptionally effectively to calls, particularly in the event that they haven’t been pressured. In case you’re working toms on the roost and people birds have hens, let the angle of the hens dictate how and while you name. If you may get right into a back-and-forth dialog with the boss hen of the mountain, likelihood is good she’s going to drag the tom shut. If the tom or toms don’t have a hen, they’re apt to pitch down and run to you. These birds are used to strolling miles and miles trying to find love, and after they assume a hen is shut, they’ll come at full tilt. 

The noon hours are my favourite time to name in and kill a mountain chook. When hens depart the toms then to go sit on nests, the gobblers develop into extra susceptible. Let the angle of a noon tom inform you how a lot and when to name. If the chook or birds are answering each observe and gobbling on their very own, you possibly can’t get too aggressive. Let ’em have it.

Decoys aren’t a should, particularly if you happen to arrange within the timber the place a chook should come in search of a hen. That stated, I’ve used a full-strut reaping-style decoy lately in conditions once I know different hunters aren’t competing for a similar chook. These decoys are mild and straightforward to move. 

In any case, decoys or no, the trick to killing a public-land mountain Merriam’s is having the will to cowl heaps and plenty of floor to easily discover some birds to hunt. When you try this, odds are superb that you just’ll come out of the mountains with a white fan bobbing over your shoulder. 

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