Ralph Cianciarulo – Hunting Tips for Merriam's Turkey
So it's coming to springtime. And one of the best things, one of our most favorite things to do, and I used to pick on it a lot, you know, and that was Turkey and I used to say I hated turkey hunting and you want to know why? Because how could something with the brain that 🤌big outsmart all of our brains? Well, that's Turkey Hunting.
Now, you know, we've got the four species here in America, in the United States. We have the Eastern which is one of your biggest birds. And that's where we originated from Illinois. You have your Rios down in Texas, the Panhandle Oklahoma and all that, you know, and they're they're branching out a little bit you have your Osceola is in only one state and Florida. And you know, we're always down at Hoppy's hunting them. But now you come to another bird called the Merriam's. Do you know the white plumage, that golden white on the fans, they're beautiful birds. And believe it or not, they're one of the most vocal out of all the turkey species.
The Merriam's actually originated from Arizona, New Mexico, and right here in southern Colorado, due to the great conservation groups, NWTF and so many others and all the sportsmen and women. Now the Mariam species has branched out, you have it in North and South Dakota, you have an Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, I mean, you have it in so many different states. So it allows us all to have some major opportunity to have a blast hunting one of the most vocal birds out there.
Born and raised in Illinois, it was the Eastern and most of the times, you know, it was an old crop field or in between wooded lots and you set up and you did some calling, you use your decoys. The Mariam Turkey, lives in a vast area. When I say that they could be down in the river bottoms, big Cottonwood draws, or they could be up in the mountains in the Ponderosa Pines.
Either way, it's a definite challenge because most of the time, it's going to be a spot in stock if you didn't locate the birds prior to your hunt. We all know turkeys roost in trees. So when you're up in a mountain and you're up and pinion and cedars, you've got to try to find and locate those trees that those birds are gonna get into. So it could be miles away, they move a lot. They're constantly on their feet, they're always going back and forth. And don't kid yourself, they will cover a lot of mileage, so you have to do the same.
So knowing that we're almost in a spot in stock for elk or mule deer type of hunt for Merriam's, the other few things is you want to make sure you want to go light, you want to go with a light pack, you want to go you know with your with your gun or your bow, you want to have a decoys that fold up or that are lightweight, so they are not bulky, because you're going to cover a lot of distance.
You know, we could talk a little bit about Fanning, you know, and that's with the tail fan. That's opening it up and bringing it down what's really cool, especially on Merriam's, you're in these rolling hills, you use the contours of the land to get you closer and get you more opportunity.
Well, one of the things you can do is if you see these birds and they're coming down, remember this, it's very hard to call any animal, bird, elk, mule, deer whitetail, anything back from where they came from, when you see them heading, let's say they're coming out from the west heading east, you want to try to intercept them in that travel route, don't try to go back and try to call them back to you try to get in front of them and use the terrain.
So if you're in a little ditch and you're coming up, and there's hardly any cover, you put your fan and you just bring it up or you slowly actually raise your decoy and be prepared because a lot of times these gobbler see that and they're coming out of that draw on there running straight up and we've shot Merriam's at point, blank range, coming into decoys, Merriam's tend to cover a whole lot of ground in one day. So knowing that you've got to have certain spots or locations that you know, you can try to intercept them in those routes.
Again, I don't care what animal it is food, cover and water. You pinpoint those three things on any animal on this planet. And you're going to be more successful.
You know, the Mariam actually tends to be one of the more flocked up birds and they stay together most of the season. So knowing that one you're going to have a lot more eyes, but two actually makes it a little bit easier to locate them and they're always talking to each other. Now they say there's 25-27, 30. Thirty very distinct calls. But here's the bottom line. We could go through all types of calls.
But we all know the basics. The yell the purr, the cutting, the gobble, you know what I mean? The owl who to get them to respond, you know, in the morning, these there's really some of just the bay basic ones and when they're starting to get close and you're just doing a little paren and you're doing that you're all you're doing is solidifying in that little bitty brain that hey, this is the real deal. listed a few 100 turkeys anywhere you look at a tree and you go, oh yeah, they roost in there.
Well, a lot of those small cedars and pinions they won't, they can't get into them and they're too low to the ground. However, you know, in the past we have seen we actually have seen some birds some gobblers and hens get up in some of those higher cedars and pinions I don't think they liked it, but they were caught too late in the day, and they just went up there and they eat, they locked down on on, you know, on those little limbs and they stayed there. But the big thing is, is locating those areas knowing where they're roosting.
And because we're out west, there's a whole lot of ranches they love to be around a cattle ranch, trust me not only with all the cow chips and the flipping them and you know seeing the bugs and everything else that's in there the meals. But the other thing too is those big hay bales.
We've seen them for years, just perch up on there, do their thing and just look at you know, look way far I mean, so do not count out those old ranches because you believe you'd be surprised that a lot of these birds will hang in and around those areas.
You know, don't forget now you're not sitting in a big hardwood somewhere you're in open ponderosa pines you're in down in the cottonwoods which has a lot of cover. And you got to remember these birds do like cover, but Boy, they sure favor those open areas where they can watch predation coming from a long ways off.
So match your pet camo pattern to where you're going. I'm a big fan of going instead of this, you know the the old standard sticks and limbs, you know, looking at your bigger, larger open patterns. Your prairie is in incredible camouflage it Strada but in a brown and tan and open tan forms that are just It's beautiful out west here. So the big thing is, is trying to blend into any terrain that you're dealing with.
Bottom line is real simple. Merriam's Turkey is one of the funnest to hunt. And the reason being is because they are most vocal, and they're always on their feet, they're always going and you have to get up and go. It's just like hunting elk or mule deer or something like that.
Out West, make sure that you have a good set of optics, because I'm going to tell you, you're going to glass a long distance. And if they're not really good, they're going to fatigue your eyes, you're gonna get a headache, and it's not going to be a fun hunt.
You really want to get to vantage points, look down in these drawers. But also pay attention to where you see those trees those trees are critical to their survival for that's where they're roosting doesn't mean they're staying there all day. But they have to find trees to roost in.
So when you look at these big areas, and there's all vast and all of a sudden, you see just these tree top tips. Get over there and look because you'd be surprised. It's probably a roosting area.
You know, the other thing to remember, especially, you know, heading out west is a lot of the times you got to draw tags. So be prepared to you know, first of the year. Get in get on get onto social media and check out the states that you plan to hunt and find out when you have to apply. Some states are over the counter but others are not. So you want to be prepared.
The other thing to remember is watch the weather. You know these birds live in an area that well sometimes can be brutal, but they're still going to do what turkeys do. You just got to be prepared for it with all the with the right clothing and the right gear.