The wild turkey is beloved among hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike. And the wild turkey’s springtime mating displays are one of the most exciting and stunning events in nature. Yet, these iconic birds only exist today because of dedicated conservation programs. This video provides an overview of the wild turkey’s mating behavior and Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to conserve this amazing species. The video features both Rio Grande turkeys and the native Merriam’s turkeys.
Colorado’s 2018 turkey season kicks off Saturday, April 14. And, if you plan to hunt gobblers, there are plenty of reasons to get out there and “strut your stuff” this spring. Abundant turkey populations, easy to obtain licenses and good access to public land are all available to hunters this season.
Alexa with her first turkey. Photo by Derek Vaughan
Hunter: Alexa Vaughan
The night before my first turkey hunt I was nervous and excited. That day I had just completed my hunter safety course and went and got my turkey license. I was eleven years old and it was my first hunt ever. I had practiced shooting a few days before and felt confident with my gun, a single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun. My Dad and I went out opening morning April 8th outside Durango in GMU 75. We settled into our blind. My dad was calling in the turkeys and I was holding my gun. We had only been waiting 20 minutes when a lone tom came strutting in. I slowly raised my gun. My hands were shaking so bad that I bumped the barrel on the blind opening. The sudden sound scared the Tom and he began to turn away. I took a deep breath and placed my sight on his head. An ear-splitting boom filled the morning air. We collected the turkey and marked my tag. It was a good day and the meat he provided we ate on Easter.
I’ve hunted Merriam’s turkeys on public lands in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains for seven years running now with Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Habitat Watch Volunteer (HWV) Rick Hooley. Rick is a HWV for the San Juan National Forest, and there’s likely few outdoorsmen with his breadth and depth of hunting-angling experience in this part of the state.
We hunt an over-the-counter (OTC) unit, and the most recent Colorado Parks & Wildlife turkey harvest data (for 2015) shows a 30 perecent success rates for OTC licenses holders versus 50 percent for limited license holders. Realtree contributor, Steve Hickoff, says: “The [Colorado] Merriam’s population lives in some rugged country; their nomadic traits can really spread them out and test your patience. You can go for hours, even days, and not hear a gobble.”
But as American Hunter contributor, Sgt. Michael Marek (82nd Airborne Division), wrote: “If it was easy, everyone would do it … hunting is difficult, and that’s what makes being a hunter so great. You truly become a cut above the rest.” Mountain Merriam’s turkey hunting is both physically and mentally challenging, and—in my admittedly biased opinion—truly a cut above the rest. Read more
The author, David Lien, displays a Merriam’s turkey he harvested in the San Juan Mountains.
— Article and photos by David Lien
My first experience chasing gobblers was during May 2008 in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. I was with renowned elk (and turkey, it turns out) hunter, David “Elkheart” Petersen, who also founded the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the first official BHA chapter. Although we roosted a tom that evening, the next morning he gobbled a few more times before disappearing. We didn’t encounter another turkey that day.
David is well-versed in the nuances of mountain turkey hunting, like his friend Ed Dentry, a former Rocky Mountain News outdoors columnist. Both are aficionados of the daunting task of harvesting toms with longbows (i.e., real bows, not space-age catapult devices Petersen calls “wheelie bows”). Dentry, who hunted turkeys with David that spring, too, shed some light on Petersen’s outlook on life and hunting. The following are excerpts from Dentry’s May 8, 2008 newspaper column: Read more