Searching for the Merriam’s Turkey

Often called Rocky Mountain turkeys because of their habitat, Merriam’s turkeys prefer to roost in ponderosa pines (in canyons), near creek beds.

States With ONLY Merriam’s:

New Mexico,
North & South Dakota,

Merriam's Turkey Tom and Hen

Merriam’s & the Gambel Oak

On the eastern edge of their habitat, where there are no pines, the gobblers roost in hardwoods.

Merriam’s prefer acorns, but there are few oaks in their range. If you see, however, a small oak, known as the Gambel (in mountain areas), Merriam’s hens prefer these trees for nesting areas and food.  Since the hens are in the oaks, toms will likely be there too.

Traveling in good-sized, mixed groups (hens, jakes, toms and jennies) is a pattern of the Merriam’s.

Unlike the Eastern turkey, these Rocky Mountain turkeys tend to find a new roost each night.  They travel more than other turkey subspecies.

Using This Info While Hunting 

Because these birds range over large areas, using a friction call will be to your advantage.  Their sounds are louder and will carry over longer distances.

Because we know that the Merriam’s travel to a new roost most nights, it follows that they will travel farther to get to a hen than most turkey species.  Flying or traveling over large distances is less of a concern with the Merriam’s.

Once you start the communication process with these gobblers, you don’t need to try to get closer to them because this is pushing your luck.  The idea is to stay put and encourage the bird to come to you.

You can be spotted when you move because you can see long distances in their preferred habitat — and so can they!

Looking for Merriam’s?

Because of the dry conditions over much of the US, start your search for the Merriam’s by heading toward water.  Like humans, these birds must drink water each day.

When calling, be patient.  These turkeys may be a mile away and it may take 30 minutes, or more, for the excited gobbler to arrive.

Once the wild birds move close, imitate their actions.  If they are scratching or drumming, you should too.

Remember, turkeys know that calling doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  They expect to hear other sounds from a hen while she’s calling.

For more info about these other sounds, go to:  Bagging the Hung-Up Turkey  (bottom of article).


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Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 12:06 am  Comments Off on Searching for the Merriam’s Turkey  
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