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Hello from WV. There are 4 of us wanting to hunt Merriam's. We have talked about it for years and want to try to make the trip spring 2017. I'm doing some research between South Dakota and Nebraska. Looking at the Black Hills area. I would like any feedback anyone would be willing to share. I'm not asking for GPS coordinates but would be interested in knowing national forest or BLM land that has a decent population of birds OR conversely those with low populations or high pressure I should avoid. Also, if you had to pick one week that has been the best over the years that would help too. We just plan to pitch a tent along the road and go hunting if that is not prohibited. Thanks in advance for any help anyone would be willing to share.
Despite what NWTF, local game departments, and outfitters claim, my research indicates that if you want a Merriam's, you need to hunt the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, or Colorado. That is their native range. Everywhere else, they have been introduced, and generally in close proximity, or without natural barriers, to other species. While you will find birds with generally Merriam's characteristics/coloring in those areas, it's widely accepted that they are hybrids. Many hunters are fine with that, but Merriam's are mountain birds. Part of the experience of hunting different species is to experience the habitat they are found in.
Ziek, the birds in the Black Hills of SD are considered Merriam's by many. Not so much when you get out on the prairies though, mainly hybrids outside of the BH National Forest, the further you move east/south/north from the central BH the more that is true.
Browtine...If you want to hunt SD be advised that the population is down somewhat. You can still have a great hunt but birds will be less numerous. You can camp in the Black Hills National Forest, there are some nice Forest Service campgrounds to utilize as well. Typically the last two weeks of April are the best from my experience. Weather can be volatile, cold and snow or hot and dry. Prepare for both. Drive the roads/trails early and late listening for gobbles to locate birds. Best of luck to you.
Yea true merriams are Arizona New Mexico and Colorado. Central colorafo and west.
Thanks for the advice. To clarify we aren't as interested in a pure merriams as much as hunting the black hills type country. We have elk hunted CO and WY and have seen birds in the low country (mostly private land). The birds from the black hills are all beautiful whether they are hybrid or not. I would love to get one with the white tips but the experience of that country is more important than the dna of the birds. Also, since we are not elk hunting next fall, one of the things SD or NE has to offer is a closer drive than the rocky mountains.
Don't over look Montana. Lots of public and lots of birds. They dang sure look like pure merriams to me. They where stocked from birds out of Colorado .
I got a mtn merriams in Colo this year that had a little buff in the tailfeathers and 2nd row of feathers in the tail. The remaining feathers were snow white. I got him in ponderosa country so was pretty sure I was hunting pure merriams country. I'm not sure if he was a pure merriams with a little off color in the tailfeathers or a pure merriams that had some how had some rio blood in him? The closest rios and rio/merriam crosses are likely around 20 miles away and are on river bottoms in the Eastern Plains.
Ziek... I have had this same discussion with a buddy of mine that we should go grab a bunch of Osceola turkeys and start a breeding program a little further north. What a cash cow we could have!! It would be a pure Osceola turkey...just not in Florida and not over priced.
Have fun, go hunt the ponderosa country for the Merriam's experience.
A turkey is a turkey is a turkey, things like habitat and hunting pressure have more to do with how they act.
As per looks, there are always variances.
The first bird I shot in the Black Hills 30 years ago looked just like a Rio from south-central Kansas.
Two years ago I shot a Rio/eastern cross in southcentral Kansas that looked more like a pure Merriams than Hunt's first pic.
I hunted the Black Hills a few times but have since switched to hunting some of the reservations. Beautiful place to chase turkeys. Plenty of camping spots.
If I were to do again I would hunt later in the season, end of April, first week of May. Even at that time a freak snowstorm can move in. I got chased out a number of years ago by a blizzard that dumped 36" of snow. We found the birds up high. Use your vehicle and locater call to find the birds. Merriams tend to shock gobble better in the dark. There is a lot of country and unless you know the birds are in the area no sense in just walking down the logging roads/trails. Unlike easterns, merriams tend to roam and cover a lot more distance.
This Les Kouba print I bought depicts the type of country I was hunting.