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Taking a family trip to SD next week to (among other things) chase some turkeys in the Black Hills. It's technically a family vacation, so I'll be somewhat limited on time/days to make it happen, but can pretty much plan around whatever I need to. I have plenty of experience hunting eastern birds - and maybe they're the same - but I'm wondering if anyone has any tips/tricks or if there is anything I should know in regards to Merriams in general?
I've read some on them, and it seems they move around a bit more than other turkey species and tend to be very vocal on the roost (then shut up - but I guess that probably varies a lot). Looks like I might be dealing with snow - never hunted them in the snow but does this typically change anything about their habits?
Do they typically roost in the same areas and are patternable - especially early season when they're bunched up like they should be? I appreciate any insight anyone has!
I’ve arrowed about 30 merriams in central sodak. In my experience, they do roost in the same area unless they are busted off the roostt or a harassed a lot near the roost. They usually travel n the same general areas. I’ve had best luck setting up a couple hundred yards from the roost. In the morning get in before light, quietly set up a blind, set out decoys, and call very sparingly. If possible, set up blind day or two before in daylight when the birds are off feeding and breeding. That avoids the noise of an in the dark set up.. In the evening, up a couple hundred yards from the roost in the area you expect them to approach. Set out decoys, call sparingly when they arrive in sight or hearing. For decoys, I use the DSD half it and on or two hens. Set the jake 9-10 yards from the blind and facing the blind. Set the hens closer and a bit to the side. The gobbler in almost all cases goes to the jake. Good luck
THAT IS IS THE DUMBEST BIRD I EVER HUNTED,, GO AFTER THEM AND HAVE FUN, BUT MOST OF THEM ARE JUST PLAIN DUMB, UNLESS THEY HAVE SOME PRESSURE
I have been out there 17 years in a row hunting those little butterballs. Mostly shotgun, but I have killed a few with a bow. This time of year the hens can be the problem, if you call too much they may lead the Toms away. We get a lot of them by getting in front of them and calling only if it looks like they might get by without a shot. Using a bow we always use a Tom decoy (Fat Boy), one guy runs the decoy and the other is the shooter. Have to be careful where you do this obviously so you don't get shot. Snow is great, for seeing tracks, strutting marks and turkeys. They will be going crazy strutting in the sun this weekend, Gobbling may only be early in the morning and late at night. They might be hanging out around the ranches with this late winter activity. I am heading out there in the morning, I can't wait. I have 3 tags for SD this year, one archery tag.
Thanks guys, appreciate the info!
I wouldn’t say they are the dumbest. I’ve found Rio Grande to be just the same.
Their all dumb when their unpressured ! I found with rio's and Merriam's you can really practice your calling !
I’ve arrowed about 30 Merriams, four Easterns, and two Rios. They all seemed to be pretty easy to call/decoy into range. Their intelligence seems very similar to me. And for the most part I have hunted non pressured birds.
Glad you’re doing a “Merriam’s” hunt in true Merriam’s habitat — miles of steep hillsides and towering pines. The “Merriam’s” I’ve hunted on the prairies of NE and SD we’re a three-way hybrid, and far was easier then mountain birds if WY, NM and Black Hills. Be ready to cover some ground on logging roads, with some high-pitched call to locate birds. Seldom seemed to roost in the same spot when their were many miles of unbroken forest. Fun hunt, gorgeous birds.
After hunting them in south central SD for 7 years, I would agree with Dale06 100%!
Think like you are hunting whitetails....
My two cents......
Just for a little background....I cut my teeth on Easterns starting in 1990. I moved West in 2006 and have hunted Merriam's every year since with Eastern hunts thrown in as often as possible. All of my turkey hunting is shotgun, but their behavior applies the same. I've hunted Merriam's in CO mountains, NE Pine Ridge, SD Plains, WA mountains, and all across MT (mountains to riverbottoms).
Turkeys, in general, are the same regardless of which subspecies. However, Merriam's have a reputation for being easy. Apply some public land hunting pressure and that can change. Throw in a few hens and a Merriam's can be as difficult as an Eastern. But.....generally Merriam's are easier to call in than their Eastern brethren.
The habitat makes a difference on Merriam's also. Plains birds, or more appropriately riverbottoms birds, are more likely to roost the same place day after day. They have limited places to roost and in some cases their day to day life is more driven by agricultural practices. That isn't so for mountain birds like you'll find in the Hills. Ranching practices probably control their location in the winter, same as MT, but after spring break up they'll scatter into the ponderosa hills. I have seen mountain birds roost in the same general area for multiple nights (at least within earshot), but don't count on it unless they are near private ranches and day to day is driven by feeding their pastures or feedlots.
Overall, I call more to Merriam's than Easterns. Merriam's hens can be some real blabbermouths and I give it right back. I think Merriam's are more likely to gobble than Easterns whether in the tree or on the ground (not that I haven't heard Easterns make a fool of themselves gobbling and running to me screaming on a call). Merriam's in the mountains and hills cover more ground than Easterns. (I don't think the nomadic info applies to riverbottoms birds)
I'm shotgunning, so I don't carry blinds or dekes. If I ever choose to change to bowhunting them, I'll probably add a decoy but no blind. A blind is going to really tie you down on public ground in the Blackhills.
My suggestions are, cover plenty of ground to find birds, try to roost birds, don't be afraid to yelp and cutt your brains out to get birds to sound off while covering ground, don't quit. You can go hours without a peep and the next thing you know you have a bird gobbling, strutting, drumming into range and flopping on his back. :)
Hobbes , good stuff. A turkey is a turkey is a turkey. Things like thickness of cover, breeding cycle and hunting pressure determine how easy or hard.
Had my azz kicked by Merriam’s and had way too easy easterners and Oseolas.
hobbes really nailed it to a T. I have hunted Merriam's many times in the last 19 years in many locations, many varied terrain areas across Nebraska, South Dakota, Standing Rock in North Dakota and areas in Wyoming. Just like hobbes, I have found exactly the same thing. Great synopsis. You will have fun!