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Merriam’s Turkeys - The Straight Scoop

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As an old gray beard turkey hunter that likes to travel, I have had the good fortune to hunt Merriam’s turkeys in NE, CO, WY, SD and MT. One thing that I have found is that there is NO AREA in ANY STATE where 100% of the birds exhibit pure white lower back covert feathers or pure white tipped tail feathers.When I worked for NWTF, we would have an annual group of 25 hunters hunt in SE Montana - far from any Rios or easterns and without exception, around 20% of the birds would be what we called buff colored and the rest were varying shades of white. These were pure strain Merriam’s and not hybrids. Please note the following quote from NWTF’s Bulletin #4 about Merriam’s turkeys. “The Merriam’s appears to have a white rump due to its pinkish, buff, or whitish tail coverts and tips.” I pass along this information because I get many inquiries from hunters looking to hunt where the birds are pure white, but in reality, there is no such place due to the genetic makeup of the Merriam’s sub-species.

The problem that arises, especially in Nebraska, is that outfitters are selling turkey hunts as Merriam’s hunts when in fact they are hybrid hunts. Case in point, I killed a gobbler near Stuart, Nebraska and it looked as Rio Grande as a Texas bird. Every bird I saw there looked like a Rio. This makes sense because in the late 1950’s Rios were the sub-species transplanted there. I then drove northwest and hunted near Valentine, Nebraska and killed a gobbler there that was a dark buff color. The other birds in that flock were whiter than the one I shot but I chose the strutter. There was an obvious lean toward Merriam’s coloration in the 75 miles between these two towns. When I drove further west near Chadron, Nebraska, the birds there were pure strain Merriam’s and exhibited typical Merriam’s coloration of mostly white with some buffs mixed in.

In closing, all of the Merriam’s hunts I offer are in areas that are pure strain Merriam’s. This is based on the NWTF sub-species distribution map and my personal experience. I take the responsibility of helping my clients obtain their slams seriously and realize a pure strain Merriam is needed to complete a slam.

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Wyoming Merriam’s Turkey - Hunt #06-T

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Two bird limit in this part of Wyoming.

Hunt private ranches with the east slope of the scenic Bighorn Mountains as your backdrop.

This hunt can be done guided or unguided. On the guided hunt, a guide will take hunters afield and accompany them on the hunt. Hunters can choose to do their own calling if they desire. On the unguided option, hunters are shown the properties and given tips regarding roosting sites and preferred travel routes.

The season runs April 1 - May 20 but this outfitter typically runs most of the turkey hunts in April so he can concentrate on spring bear hunts and bear / turkey combo hunts in May.

Includes lodging, meals, airport pick up and drop off (Sheridan airport only) and in-the-field transportation and 2×1 guiding or unguided.

License cost is $72 plus $12.50 for a conservation permit. This area (Turkey Unit 3) has a two bird limit. The general license is available over-the-counter and the limited license is by draw. The application period for the limited license is January 1-31 and the draw success has been 100%. If limited licenses are leftover after the drawing, they can be purchased while supplies last. A hunter’s safety card is required for firearm hunters if born after January 1, 1966 - not needed for archery hunters.

3 Day Hunt - 1 Bird $1000

3 Day Hunt - 2 Birds $1500 guided or $1275 unguided

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South Dakota Merriam’s Turkey - Hunt #28-T

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Here is a place where a hunter can harvest 4 gobblers on one hunt!

This outfitter has over 100,000 acres leased and an excellent population of turkeys. Deer hunting has been their primary focus so the turkeys have seen very little hunting pressure. The ranches are located in the prairie region east of Rapid City.

This hunt is fully guided. Hunters have the option to do their own calling or have the guides do it. Clients have enjoyed 100% opportunity in past years. Multiple tags can be obtained and up to four turkeys may be harvested on the four day hunt.

Included are meals, motel lodging and 2×1 guiding. Can accommodate up to 6 hunters per camp.

Licenses are available on-line or via mail but not over-the-counter. Copy and paste this link for deadlines and license details: http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/big-game/turkey/spring-turkey.aspx. Licenses include two turkey tags. The season runs the second weekend in April through the third weekend in May.

Hunters under the age of 16 must have a Hunter Ed card or a previous license from another state to apply.

2 Day Hunt - $1250 (plus 7.5% sales tax) one bird hunt

3 Day Hunt - $1550 (plus 7.5% sales tax) two bird hunt

4 Day Hunt - $2350 (plus 7.5% sales tax) four bird hunt

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Colorado Merriam’s Turkey - Hunt #78-T

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Hunt 9000 acres of private land for only $550! This hunt is a good choice for hunters looking for a low cost alternative to public land hunting. Located near my town of residence - Canon City, CO.

The ranch has year round water and excellent roost sites in the Ponderosa pines and cottonwoods. Situated in the foothills of the Wet Mountains, the terrain is semi-arid and relatively flat compared to many places that hold Merriams.

I did my recon visit here in August 2014 and saw at least 6 different flocks including mature gobblers. 2014 was the first year it was hunted for turkeys. One to four hunters can hunt the ranch during the same time period and groups will not be mixed. A limited number of hunters will be taken per year to ensure quality hunting in the future.

There is no lodging on the ranch. However, hunters can camp on the ranch if they bring their own tent or camper. Motel lodging and restaurants are only 10 minutes away. An RV park with cabin rentals is located within 15 miles of the ranch.

The property is also within 10 minutes of the famed Arkansas River which has excellent trout fishing for rainbows and browns. In fact, the Arkansas was recently designated as a Gold Medal River. In 2012, the Ark, as locals call it, had an average of 170 pounds of trout per acre and 75 trout larger than 14 inches per acre. A 5 day non-resident fishing license is only $21.

Non-resident spring turkey licenses are $101 and are available over the counter. Licenses can be obtained online or at a Colorado Parks & Wildlife Office. A $10 habitat stamp is also required. There is a one bird limit.

Season dates: Mid-April - end of May

3 Day Hunt - $550 unguided or $850 guided. Meals and lodging are not provided. Hunters may stay in a 5th wheel camper on site for an additional $100 per hunter.

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Nebraska Merriam’s Turkey - Hunt #37-T

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Unlike many parts of Nebraska that contain Rio / Merriam’s hybrids, these birds in northwest Nebraska are pure strain Merriam’s.

Hunting is conducted on private ranches that have seen little turkey hunting pressure. This area has rolling hills, open prairie, ag land, cottonwoods and pines which make for perfect Merriam’s habitat.

Can be done unguided or guided. Unguided hunters will be given property maps, shown property boundaries and places where birds roost, strut and travel. Hunters then hunt on their own. Guided hunts are normally 2 hunters per guide but can be done 1 guide per hunter also. Hunters may do their own calling or rely on the guide to do the calling.

Both archery and shotgun hunts are held. The best hunting is typically April 20 through May. No jakes may be harvested - adult birds only.

Licenses are available over-the-counter or online. Cost is $91 per tag plus a $20 habitat stamp. Hunter Education Certification is required for everyone age 12 through 29. Youth hunters under the age of 12 can hunt without a Hunter Education Certificate but must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 19 years of age or older. The youth turkey license is only $6 plus the $20 habitat stamp.

Hunts include meals, lodging and private land hunting.

Season dates are: Archery - March 23 - May 31, 2016
Shotgun - April 16- May 31, 2016

3 Day Hunt (4 nights) - $1000 - one bird, unguided hunt
3 Day Hunt (4 nights) - $1275 - two bird, unguided hunt
3 Day Hunt (4 nights) - $1175 - one bird, 2×1 guided hunt or $1300 1×1 guided
3 Day Hunt (4 nights) - $1550 - two bird, 2×1 guided hunt or $1675 1×1 guided

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Wyoming Merriam’s Turkey - Hunt #55-T

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One bird limit in this part of Wyoming.

Hunt Northeast Wyoming for Merriam’s gobblers. Hunting is conducted on private ranches that have excellent numbers of turkeys.

The hunt is based out of a modern lodge that has a large game room with a pool table, bar, big screen TV and dozens of big game mounts. Rooms for couples are available.

Guides are provided - 1 guide per 2 hunters unless other arrangements are made. Hunters may do their own calling or rely on their guide to call. The primary hunting method is run-n-gun with hunters and guides going after gobbling birds and then setting up and calling in the birds. Blinds can also be set up for bowhunters, less mobile hunters or those choosing to video their hunt.

This area has some cottonwood flatland hunting but is primarily rolling piney hills. There are many open meadows making the birds visible.

License cost is $72 plus $12.50 for a conservation permit. A hunter’s safety card is required for firearm hunters if born after January 1, 1966 - not needed for archery hunters

Includes meals, lodging, 2×1 guiding and in-field transportation. Hunters typically fly into Rapid City, SD and rent a car to drive to the lodge.

Season dates are April 12, 2014 to May 20, 2014.

3 Day Hunt - $1250 one bird hunt

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Wyoming Merriam’s & Black Bear - Hunt #06-TBB

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Wyoming Black Bear
Wyoming Black Bear
What a great idea -  hunt private ranches for turkeys in the morning and bowhunt for black bears over bait in the evening! Bears average 180-250 pounds and 50% are color phase (shades of brown or cinnamon). Turkey licenses and bear licenses are both over the counter so no draw is required. Wyoming has a quota for female bears killed in each region. If the quota is hit, hunting ceases in that area. The quota is not normally hit during the dates of this hunt.
One turkey and one bear limit. Up to four hunters per hunt with a maximum of eight hunters per season. Includes guide, lodging, meals, trophy drop-off at taxidermist, pick-up and drop-off at Sheridan airport.
Crossbows are legal to use. License cost is $362 for bear and $72 for turkey plus a $12.50 conservation stamp. A hunter’s safety card is required for firearm hunters if born after January 1, 1966 - not needed for archery hunters.

5 Day Hunt - $3000. Hunts start May 1 and run until May 20 (turkey season ends May 20)