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.


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


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


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:

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).


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


Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 12:06 am  Comments Off on Searching for the Merriam’s Turkey  
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Talkin’ Turkey: Which Turkeys Are Where?

The Next Few Articles

Today’s article will tell which subspecies of  gobblers are in each state.  Next, I’ll share info on each subspecies — including the differences between them.

After that, I’ll discuss some mating and roosting behaviors.  Finally, I’ll share what I know about shotguns and computing the density of your shot.

These Turkeys are Thinkin' 'bout Spring!

The Eastern Wild Turkey

If you remember the pictures of turkeys plastered on school room windows in the first grade, then you know what the eastern gobbler looks like.  This is the largest group of wild turkey in America.

States with ONLY the Eastern Variety:  *

  • Alabama,
  • Arkansas,
  • Connecticut,
  • Georgia,
  • Illinois,
  • Indiana,
  • Iowa,
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana,
  • Maine,
  • Maryland,
  • Massachusetts,
  • Michigan,
  • Minnesota,
  • Mississippi,
  • Missouri,
  • New Hampshire,
  • New Jersey,
  • New York,
  • North Carolina,
  • Ohio,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • Rhode Island,
  • South Carolina,
  • Tennessee,
  • Vermont,
  • Virginia,
  • West Virginia, and
  • Ontario, Canada

States with Eastern Plus Other Turkeys

Eastern & Osceola: Florida

Eastern & Rio Grande Turkeys: Kansas, Texas

Eastern, Rio Grande & Merriam’s Turkeys: Oklahoma

Rio Grande Gobblers

Rios are slightly smaller than the Eastern species, but have larger, thicker feet than the Easterners. The are fewer Rios than Eastern toms, but more than the Merriam’s or Osceola’s.

States with ONLY Rios (this is not a misprint!):  Hawaii

States w Rios & Merriam’s Turkey: California, Nebraska and Oregon

The Merriam’s Wild Turkey

These are often called the Rocky Mountain turkeys because, oddly enough, most live in states around the Rocky Mountains.

States With  ONLY Merriam’s:

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

Next time, I’ll spend time on the Osceola and Gould’s Wild Turkey!

Turkey Hunting Season(s) by State

Here are the open turkey seasons by state.

Only Spring Turkey Season:

  • Georgia,
  • Idaho,
  • Louisiana,
  • Maine,
  • New Jersey,
  • North & South Carolina,
  • Ohio,
  • Rhode Island,
  • Utah
  • Ontario, Canada

According to the info I have, all remaining states offer turkey hunting in the spring AND the fall! **


* and ** The info I’ve shared here may have changed.  Biologists are trying to move wild turkeys into new areas all the time.  If you have new info about subspecies moving into your state, please let me know so I can correct this.

Likewise, states change hunting seasons for a variety of reasons.  If you have different info about turkey season in your state, please let me know:  marylouise at GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com


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

Talking Turkey: Which of the 5 Types are Near You?

Across North America, there are 5 subspecies of the turkey (genus Meleagris)

Eastern Turkey

These Guys are 'Thinkin' Spring!'

These  turkeys  ‘strut their stuff’  from Maine to the northern regions of Florida and west to Oklahoma.  This is the largest group of the wild turkey.

Merriam’s Turkeys

This subspecies lives in the western US.  Generally, they are somewhat smaller than the eastern types.

Osceola Turkey

This is a small group of turkeys that roam over Florida, and no where else!

Rio Grande Wild Turkey

This subspecies calls Texas “home” but can range as far north as Kansas and down south into Mexico.

Gould’s Wild Turkey

These birds hale from central Mexico but often wander north into New Mexico.


Turkey Info: Did Ya’ Know?

A Turkey’s Weight – A wild turkey’s habitat determines his weight. They can reach 20 lbs. in the agricultural areas of the Midwest. In other areas, they average somewhat less than 20 lbs.

How Far Do Turkeys Forage? Biologists claim that turkeys can travel between 1 and 2 miles per day.

However, if the birds are living in an area that cannot support a large number,  they range further – between 50 acres to 5 miles!

What Causes Turkeys to Move to a New Area? In general, turkeys do not migrate.  They tend to acclimatize to the area they are in and stay close within the region.  However, they will move out of an area if something scares them away (predators, for example)  or the land will no longer support their numbers.

How Fast Can Gobblers Move? Turkeys can run as fast as 15 mph – on the ground!  In the air, they can reach 55 mph!


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

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm  Comments Off on Talking Turkey: Which of the 5 Types are Near You?  
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What’s Unique About Each Variety of Wild Turkeys?

As mentioned previously, there are 5 subspecies of the North American wild turkey. Generally, they have some distinctive differences that a hunter should be aware of before setting out to do battle with the “big birds.”

The Eastern Turkey

Eastern turkey – has the largest numbers. They are available along the eastern coast from Maine to northern Florida, and as far west as Oklahoma.

They roost in pine or hemlock trees, along the top of a ridge. When it gets fairly warm, they move on to treed areas around open fields.

Near their roosts, they select a “strut zone.”  During the opening days of mating season, they may not use the strut zones at all. However, in the waning days of the season — when the number of hens starts to drop (hens have moved to their nests for incubation), the boys may get started strutting right after coming down from their roosts.


Merriam's: Note the White Tips on the Lower Back & Tail Feathers!

Merriams – live in the western US. They prefer ponderosa pines, along creek beds or on the sides of canyons. In the eastern part of their range, there are no pines and they use hardwood trees.

Merriam’s are ‘travelin’ turkeys.’ They like to move around and seem to find a new roost each night. The turkeys tend to travel in mixed groups (gobblers, jakes and hens).

The hens like to use Gambel oaks (in mountain areas)  for eating the acorns and for nesting.


Osceola – live only in Florida. These turkeys like to roost over water in cypress trees. They fly to the closest dry land to strut.

It’s easy to hunt for these birds, but hard to take one home because of their unique roosting habits.

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys

Rio Grande – reside mostly in Texas, but range as far north as Kansas and as far south as Mexico.

Oak trees are the preferred roost for these turkeys. However, there are few of these in this arid region, so they roost where they can: sycamores, cottonwoods and hackberry trees.

Strut zones can be anywhere; once they leave their roosts (in the am), they may travel for miles. Food is scarce in these areas, and they have to travel to eat.

Gould’s Wild Turkey

Gould’s Wild Turkey – lives mostly in central Mexico and some reside in New Mexico.  These birds have similar habits to the Merriam’s.

Some hunters comment that they seem wilder than the Merriam turkeys.  Their habitat is drier than the Merriam’s live in – however they often are larger than their Merriam cousins.

Did You Know?

Wild turkeys could live as long as their domesticated cousins, but few do. According to biologists, the wild ones rarely live past 5 years, while the domestic version can live into their teens!


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