Photo by David Lien.
For the last six years I’ve been privileged to hunt public lands Merriam’s turkeys in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains with Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Habitat Watch volunteer Rick Hooley. Although Rick makes his living as a fly fishing outfitter/guide, he’s also a crack turkey and elk hunter.
In a May 2015 Colorado Outdoors Online story “5 Tips for Hunting Merriam’s Turkeys,” I shared some of what I’ve learned about turkey hunting from Rick and other informed hunters/sources. Here I’ll expand on some of what was covered in the 2015 tips and add a few new ones for this year. Read more
Whether you hunt turkeys or simply enjoy hiking in Colorado’s backcountry, you need to be on the lookout for ticks. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other serious diseases. In this Colorado Outdoors “Quick Tip” video, you will learn a few precautions that you can take to prevent tick bites anytime you are hunting or hiking in tick-infested areas.
The author with a Marriam’s tom.
Colorado has two subspecies of wild turkey—the Merriam’s, also known as the mountain turkey, and the Rio Grande, primarily found in eastern Colorado. Merriam’s are wanderers and frequent ponderosa pine forests. The Rio Grande prefer cottonwood trees along riparian areas. Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) says Rio Grande turkeys are larger and easier to locate than Merriam’s, so hunting them is generally not as difficult.
Merriam’s turkeys were historically found in the mountain forests of Colorado, New Mexico and northern Arizona. They have been transplanted into the pine forests of Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. Merriam’s can be found not only in ponderosa pine forest but also other vegetation types in elevations ranging from 3,500 to 10,000 feet. Read more
The spring snows continue to come but soon they will fade to the green leaves of a new season’s birth for Colorado. Turkey season is just a month away, and I find myself tuning calls, checking my old turkey vest and, at times, day dreaming about those gobbles at first light.
I thought about how we might approach this new season for the novice hunter and will work to provide some insight about what you should attempt to put in practice in the woods this spring. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the upcoming season: Read more
The author displays a Merriam’s turkey he harvested in the San Juan Mountains.
Colorado has two subspecies of wild turkey—the Merriam’s, also known as the mountain turkey, on the Western Slope and the Rio Grande on the Front Range. Turkeys are most often hunted during the spring, when their mating season occurs, with females laying a clutch of eight to twelve eggs that hatch in May.
Just as bull elk are more vulnerable to human hunters during their fall rut/mating season, male wild turkeys (called toms or longbeards) become more susceptible to hunting in the spring. The tom is identifiable by hair-like feathers, called a beard, on its breast and red (white and blue) head. Colorado has spring and fall turkey hunting seasons. Be sure to check the current regulation brochure for season dates.
The limit is two turkeys in the spring (one may be taken with a limited license and one may be taken with an over-the-counter license). One turkey may be taken in the fall. Hunters can harvest only tom turkeys in the spring with shotgun or bow. Either sex of turkey is fair game in the fall, and hunters may use rifles and handguns. During 2012, about 55 percent of limited-license hunters reported harvesting a bird, compared with just 25 percent of over-the-counter (OTC) or unlimited-license holders. Read more
David Lien displays his Merriam’s turkey taken in southwest Colorado.
Anyone who’s heard the echoing “Gobble-obble-obble!” of a longbeard at dawn during April knows something primordial lives in the woods, hills, mountains and valleys of this country and continent. It’s an explosive vocalization, one like no other, that my friend David Petersen says is, “at once high-pitched, deep-throated, melodic and maniacal, with emphasis on the last quality.”
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is endemic to North America and evolved more than 11 million years ago. While they have no close relatives, they’re cousins of pheasants. And not unlike a male pheasant, the wild tom, with his bold tail fan and bright wattle, is one of a kind. Prized for his keen senses and fabled intelligence, a tom can reach 30 pounds or more with a wingspan pushing 5½ feet. Read more