On the Trail of a Osceola Wild Turkey

If you are hoping to get a crack at hunting all five of the subspecies of wild turkey, plan to hunt in Florida for the Osceola.

Actually, in some areas of Florida, you will find both the Eastern and the Osceola wild turkeys, sharing the same habitat.

The Skinny on the Osceola 

Of all the subspecies these are considered the most beautiful. They have

Most Biologists Consider the Osceola to be the Most Beautiful of the 5 Subspecies of Wild Turkeys.

more golden and green body feathers.

Perhaps because Osceola’s call the Florida swamps ‘home,’ their legs, spurs, tails and beards are longer than average.

‘Pure’ Osceola’s only live in southern Florida.  Because Eastern wild turkeys also live in Florida, some biologists consider all the turkeys as hybrids and refer to them as “the Florida subspecies.”

What Makes the Osceola Unique

These birds prefer to roost over water in cypress trees. Their habitat includes hardwood swamps, palmetto grass lands and live oaks.

When gobblers want to strut their stuff, they fly to dry land near their roosts.

Because of the difficult habitat of Osceola’s, non-natives find hunting these beautiful birds difficult, dangerous * and expensive.

Hunting the Osceola 

By the time you factor in out-of-state licenses, lodging and land (on which to hunt the Osceola), the price of a domestic turkey in the supermarket is an amazing bargain!

Hunting the Osceola isn’t much different from hunting the Eastern turkey except for the handicapping factor of having to maneuver in swampy conditions.

One helpful factor is that the Osceola roost in the same areas each day — unless they are spooked or over-hunted.

Land Options

It can get rather crowded hunting the Osceola on public lands.  Remember to call less – because of the added pressure of so many hunters.

Hunting on private land can be quite expensive.  Before putting your hard-earned dollars on the table, make inquiries about guided hunts, as well as public and private land hunting prices and conditions.

You want the hunt to be memorable for the enjoyment you had and not the staggering price you paid!

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* The Osceola hang out with some heavy-hitters:  alligators, water moccasins, mosquitoes and diamondback rattlers!

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Come Back Saturday:  for our Joke of the Day

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Come Back Sunday: for our Wildest of the Wild Rear Window Graphics

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Thanks for stopping by!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 6:51 am  Comments Off on On the Trail of a Osceola Wild Turkey  
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On the Trail of a Gould’s Wild Turkey

Before you get too excited, let me say that the Gould’s Turkeys range over

Although this Gould's feathers are not fanned out, you can see the end feathers are very white!

Mexico, with some scattered  in southern New Mexico.   Chances are that you will travel to Mexico to hunt for this subspecies.

Description of a Gould’s

This is the largest of the subspecies of turkeys — weighing in at over 20 lbs.  Because of the rough terrain they call home, the Gould’s spurs are usually shorter than the Eastern turkey’s through wear.

  They resemble the Merriam’s turkey because of their white tail feathers.  

Look at the Merriam’s below and perhaps you can see that their feathers are not as white.

This Merriam's turkey has his feathers fanned out. They do not have as much white on their feathers, nor is the color as white as the Gould's!

Distinctive Sounds of Gould’s

Folks who have hunted this subspecies mention that the Gould’s has a “lazy gobble.”

As John Trout, Jr., mentions:   “It’s not thunderous like the gobble of the Eastern wild turkey but is slowly drawn out, lasting longer than the gobble of any other subspecies.” *

 Hunting Tips for the Gould’s

Hunters who have “hunted them all” (taken wild turkeys of all 5 subspecies), say that hunting for the Gould’s is an adventure.

Because most of them are in northern and central Mexico, they are not as easy to hunt as the others.

Be ready for lots of walking to get within range of the Gould’s.   The terrain is rough and mountainous.

You will need patience to be successful.  Remember that sounds carry over the mountains and their responding gobble to yours may be coming from a great distance.

It may take the gobbler 30 minutes or more to get to you.  Don’t move around to a new location — be patient.

With the Gould’s, a higher pitched seems to work best. Experienced hunters prefer the two-reed mouth call with this species because of its high pitch.

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* John Trout, Jr., The Complete Book of Wild Turkey Hunting, publ. 2000 by Lyons Press, Canada.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm  Comments Off on On the Trail of a Gould’s Wild Turkey  
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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:

Arizona,
Colorado,
Idaho,
Montana,
New Mexico,
North & South Dakota,
Utah,
Washington,
Wyoming                                                                                                             

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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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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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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More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult

This is a continuation of yesterday’s article on turkey poults:  The Life of a Turkey Poult.  It covered:  nest-building, breeding, incubation and birthing.

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The First Weeks of Life

The first 2 weeks, the poults stay close to mom’s side — for warmth and food.  They spend these

Turkey Poults Grow Rapidly; They Weigh 6 - 8 lbs. by the Time They are 1 year.

weeks on the ground, although the poults can fly by the end of their first week of life!

They are constantly learning at this time; they spend their days: feeding, sleeping, dusting, preening and peeping. By the end of the third week, the poults are able to roost in trees with their mother.

Cold weather can delay the process of moving to the trees.  By the time they roost in trees, they have  a large vocabulary.

A Poult’s Diet Changes 

In the early days, poults need a steady diet of protein:  beetles, grasshoppers and other insects.  However, as they are out looking for these in the open, they become food for hawks and other predators. Thus, they have to balance their hunger with their fear of being eaten!

During the spring and summer months, poults spend most of their time feeding – to fuel the rapid growth of their bodies.  Besides insects, they eat grasses, leaves, plants, berries and agricultural crops.

Because we make scratching noises when we are calling turkeys, we assume they only eat things below them.  However, they also stretch to nab berries overhead and even jump to snatch a morsel from a low-hanging branch.

These birds use their scratching skills year-round, but especially in the fall and winter months.

As the months roll into autumn, the numbers of insects and vegetation sources decreases, leaving the poults to start feeding on acorns and other mast.*

As the poults grow into jakes and jennies, their diet changes from almost all insects to:  10% insects and 90% vegetation.

The Pecking Order

Over the course of their lives, their rank in the pecking order of their flock may change.

At the end of their first year, the jakes leave their mothers and follow the older males or form new flocks of young jakes. Jennies will stay with their mothers, learning skills they will need as hens.

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For more info:  How to Use the Life Cycle of the Turkey to Your Advantage!

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* mast = ‘nuts of forest trees used as feed….” taken from the Free Online Dictionary

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com  

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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm  Comments Off on More About the Life & Times of a Turkey Poult  
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The Life of a Turkey Poult (Chick)

Nature is amazing; the birth and growth of turkey poults prove my point.

Breeding

Weeks before breeding, turkey hens find a protected place (on the ground) for their eggs.

I know, I know! This is a chick, not a poult! This calls for a little vision here!

After breeding, hens lay their eggs in that prepared nest.  They usually lay one/day for a total of about 12 eggs (these are averages; there’s no hard rule).

The hens will feed before and after laying their eggs.  If not sitting on the nest, she roosts nearby.  If predators destroy the nest while she is feeding, the hen will breed again and lay her eggs in a new nesting area.

She occasionally turns the eggs and clucks to her eggs.

Incubation and Birthing

The incubation period is between 26 and 28 days and the hen stays on the nest. Two or 3 days before birth, the poult eggs start making noises.  Mother hen clucks to them regularly.

The poult uses an egg tooth to start the egg opening process.  He cracks the shell in a fairly even line around the larger end of the egg.  This is hard work for the poult and he may take rest breaks before breaking free of the egg.  His labors can take about 18 hours.

You can tell the difference between a naturally hatched clutch and a destroyed nest by observing the eggs.  The neat chipping of the shell is very different from the ravaging mess predators make.

New Poults

Within 24 hours of the end of the poult hatchings, they leave the nest for 2 reasons:  they are hungry and they want to avoid predators.

Remember imprinting from high school biology? This is the process of social bonding that takes place now, so the poult recognizes his mother’s unique sounds and pitch.

Even if they mix with a variety of other turkey families, when Mother calls, her poults follow.

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Next Time:  More Wild Times With Poults!

They Sing, They Dance, They Talk!  😉  (Oops, I got a little carried away!)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 12:02 am  Comments Off on The Life of a Turkey Poult (Chick)  
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More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!

Turkeys of a Feather

Are you aware that young jakes have longer primary feathers in the center of their fan-shaped

Jakes Have Longer Tail Feathers in the Center of the Main Fan; All the Tail Feathers of a Mature Tom are the Same Length.

tails?  

In fact that is a way to tell a mature tom from a young jake. Keep in mind that the only time you will see those longer tail feathers is when a jake struts!

Feather Colors

At a distance, hen feathers look dark brown while a tom’s appear black.

Each of the 5 subspecies of wild turkeys has unique characteristics.  For an in-depth explanation (with photos), refer to these earlier articles:

Head Colors

Perhaps the reason Ben Franklin wanted to name the turkey as the symbol of the US (instead of the bald eagle), is because a male gobbler’s head color is red, white and blue!

In contrast, a hen’s head color is a rather dull blue-gray.

Caruncle Considerations!

Also known as wattles, caruncles are the fleshy growths that hang from the turkey’s head and neck.  According to Wikipedia, “The wattle is often an ornament for courting potential mates. A large wattle is correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition ….” *

An adult gobbler’s caruncle will turn bright red when he is sexually excited. In contrast, a hen has a smaller wattle that is pink. An excited jake will have a wattle  that is more pink than red.

FYI for Hunters

In the latter days of the mating season, it may be easier for a hunter to take a tom.  He’s still interested in sex but there are fewer hens available for breeding.  

As more hens start nesting, gobblers may resort to more strident calling for females. Since he’s more stressed (looking for the few hens remaining to breed), he’s more likely to make a mistake — and move into the crosshairs of a hunter’s gun.

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*  Wikipedia, from the page — “Wattle (anatomy)”

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Thanks for stopping by; come again!

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This blog is a companion to my website: GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 7:21 am  Comments Off on More Fascinating Facts About Wild Turkeys!  
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Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?

Wild and domesticated turkeys may have a lot in common.  However, just because you nosh on turkey for Easter or Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean you know “jack” about the wild ones!

Note this turkey's beard sticking from his chest!

Sizing Up a Turkey

When choosing a turkey for Thanksgiving, you probably select one between 24 and 28 pounds for a large family gathering.   Domesticated turkeys are raised for lots of meat vs. their body size. 

 Habitat and food availability determine a wild turkey’s weight.  They average  a bit over 20 lbs. in the agricultural areas of the Midwest. In other areas, they average somewhat less than 20 lbs.

How Can I Tell a Wild Turkey’s Age?

The legs of an adult gobbler are about 2″ longer than a domesticated turkey.  Their feet grow to about 4 and 1/2 inches.

A few inches above the feet are bony areas called spurs, with a fingernail-like covering.   Colors of the spurs can range from black to white to translucent.

Soon after birth, the spurs begin to grow. General measurements are:

  • About 1/2 inch by the jake’s (young male’s) first birthday
  • 2 year-old’s have spurs just under an inch
  • and 3 year-olds have spurs just over an inch
  • It is rare for turkeys to have spurs longer than 1.5 inches because of wear

The reason western turkeys do not have spurs as long as their eastern brethren is because of the rough terrain they cover.

 Birds with Beards

Male turkeys have beards – which are modified feathers (not hair).  It is not unusual for a male to have more than one beard!

The beard grows 4 to 5 inches each year.  A jake’s beard starts to show on his chest at about 6 months of age.  

Although turkeys molt and shed feathers, the beard is part of a turkey for life … unless something happens.

Once the beard reaches about 10 inches, it can wear away by dragging, getting caught in fencing, etc.  How much beard wearing  turkeys experience is an individual thing — depending on the thickness of the beard, height of the bird and the terrain he covers.

Did You Know?

One in 20 females has a beard!

Beard and spur lengths are usually more interesting to turkey hunters — rather than their weight!

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‘Turkey Dream 2″ is used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics

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Next Time:  More Fascinating Feather Facts & Caruncle Considerations!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com 

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Comments Off on Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?  
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Some Quick Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting!

If fishing ‘rings your chime’ rather than turkey hunting, you might wonder when I plan to let the gobblers get some rest.  Spring hunting is winding down in some places, while starting up in others.

Turkey hunting is so much fun because you are matching wits and cunning with worthy adversaries!

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Rest assured that fishing tips are coming soon.  BTW, one of the most important skills you can develop while hunting or fishing is …

Patience

Toms are usually bagged by the person who will wait —

  • for the tom to respond & come to the hunter’s call,
  • for the gobbler to move within range
  • for a clear shot 

Know Your Tom’s Habits

Left alone, turkeys have a routine.  If you can expect what the gobblers will do next, you can get into place to take advantage of their regular patterns of behavior.

Biologists tell us that most of the turkey mating takes place during the mid-morning hours.  Turkeys move into agricultural areas (fields) from their hiding places in the woods to:

  • eat,
  • strut,
  • mate, and
  • dust *

During the heat of the day, as the sun beats down on the dark feathers of the turkeys, they abandon the fields for the cool shade of the trees & woods.

By knowing this, you can situate yourself in a likely spot to surprise the hot and tired toms.

Know the Hunting Patterns in the Area 

Turkeys experience the heaviest hunting pressure from daylight until about 9 am.  They tend to breed during the mid-morning hours.

Experienced gobblers know that hunters leave hunting by noon.  Few hunters are going to sit in the heat without lunch.

Older toms are likely to lower their guard in the heat of the day.  Most hunters have left for lunch and the toms are often looking for a hen and a “quickie.”

Surprise the tom by hunting when he doesn’t expect to see you — and you can have turkey for supper!

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* Explanation of “dusting”:  …”turkeys routinely dust during the mid to late morning hours.  Look for an open area with loose soil where the birds have scratched out a “bowl” of loose dirt they can sit in and kick dust over themselves.

There are usually a lot of tracks, droppings and feathers nearby since they do spend quite a bit of time there during the middle of the day just loafing.

Turkeys are really very clean animals and dusting keeps them free of mites, ticks and lice.”   (Quoted from a fine article by Rob Ramsdale.  Click on the highlighted words to see the info.)

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‘Thinkin’ Spring’ is used by permission of Vantage Point Graphics

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments Off on Some Quick Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting!  
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Getting a Gobbler to Swim to You!

There are times when something awful happens — You are on one side of a creek/stream/river and the tom is on the other side!  Is there any way to salvage the situation?

Yes, there is.  

However, you have less than an even chance. Let’s be clear about that.

If there aren't any hens closer, you may convince a tom to fly or swim across water to you!

The Situation 

When the current is too swift for wading or too deep for walking across, you will have your work cut out trying  to convince a gobbler to fly or swim across. However it can be done.

What to Try

The only way I know to convince a tom to come across a moving body of water, is to convince him that he is missing out on a great party!  He has to believe that there is more excitement on your side of the water than on his!

A tom may have no interest in flying to your party if there is only one hen.  So, using a diaphragm call, a slate call and box caller, just might convince that tom that there are 3 or more hens calling him, wanting to breed.

Change your calls:  you will need to do cuts, excited yelps and cackles. *

Remember to make other sounds that gobblers expect to hear from hens.  More info about these sounds is at:  Bagging the Hung-Up Turkey  (look for “Why Might These Work?” – near the bottom of the post).

Two Things to Remember 

  • It may require extensive calling to convince that gobbler to fly over to you.
  • As long as that tom stays and continues to gobble, you have a chance!

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*For audio of these calls — clicking on the underlined words will take you to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s site.

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‘Proud Crowd’ used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics

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Thanks for stopping by; hope you will join us again soon! 

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm  Comments Off on Getting a Gobbler to Swim to You!  
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Bagging the Hung-Up Turkey

It’s Happened to Most Hunters

Sometime during a hunt, you get a gobbler almost close enough for a shot.   But he will come so far and no further!

Your Choices

You think you might be within range of the tom.  If you take the chance, you may only wound the gobbler and your chances of recovering him are poor.

If you only scare the turkey, you will spook him and he won’t hang around for you to try to hunt him later.

Remember, a spooked turkey doesn’t forget  a close call.  He may not move to a new zip code, but he sure won’t hang around for you to try again!

Turkeys Use Their Wings to Protect Themselves from Your Pellets; Think of Those Wings As Kevlar-Covered Protection!

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Are There Any Other Possibilities?

Yes, there are.

But before I cover them, please remember one of my favorite sayings about turkey hunting:   Nothing is 100% True (100% of the Time) With Turkey Hunting!

If you can change the situation, you might bag the bird without forcing a bad shot or scaring him away.

Possibility # 1

If you let the gobbler walk away, you might be able to move closer to his new place and call him to you.

Possibility # 2

Another option is to circle the tom and get in front of him.  Then change your calls and try to get him to come to you.

Why Might These Work?

The difference between a hunter and a very successful hunter is understanding turkey behavior.

Some hunters use a variety of methods to call a hen.  However, a master hunter understands that hens make a variety of noises and movements.

Turkeys spend most of their day getting enough food.  While turkeys are calling for mating partners, they are not wasting time; they are also looking for food.

Turkeys expect to hear more than calls.  If he comes close and no further, he is waiting to hear other sounds that assure him that he is really heading towards a hen.

It is critical to add scratching to your calls.  But these scratches need to have a cadence (pattern):  scratch, scratch, pause, scratch.

What I’m asking you to do is think like a turkey.  Assure that hung-up gobbler that a hen is waiting for him, but she’s paused to get another bite of food!

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‘Threesome’ Rear Window Graphic is used by permission of Restyler’s Graphics!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 12:03 am  Comments (1)  
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