Top Three Turkey Opportunities for this Spring

by Joe Arterburn

There’s nothing quite like hunting wild turkeys in the spring.

Well, yes, there is. Elk hunting.

In fact, turkey hunting is sometimes compared to elk hunting by hunters who have felt their heart beating in their chest when a turkey, or bull, is coming to their call.

Let’s start in the spring, when toms are gathering hens into flocks to breed and defend them from other males. Subordinate toms who lost challenges to the boss gobbler generally shadow flocks, sneaking around for an opportunity at a hen and incurring the wrath of the top tom if they don’t honor the established pecking order.

Sounds like elk in the fall, right? Herd bulls corral their cows, jealously guarding them from satellite bulls. And of course bull elk respond to calls, answering a challenge bugle with antlered fury, or being lured in with seductive cow calls. Turkeys are the same. Toms challenge an interloper’s gobble or come to a hen call hoping to add a new member to his harem.

And then there are those satellite toms/bulls, often willing to respond. You never know what you’ll encounter when you set out.

Wild turkeys are big game, make no mistake. A fanned gobbler strutting to your decoys may not produce that second of apprehension when an enraged bull charges to answer your bugling challenge. But, whew, the excitement and sense of accomplishment is certainly there! If it wasn’t, 2.5 million hunters wouldn’t try to outsmart turkeys every year. Right?

If you’ve hunted wild turkeys, you know what we’re talking about. If you haven’t, well, you have an extraordinary experience ahead of you.

We’ve put together three of our favorite turkey hunts for your consideration. Consider it a rite of spring.

1. Texas Rio Grandes

We’re going to start in Texas, home of Rio Grande turkeys. This hunt takes place on a ranch of more than 20,000 contiguous acres of rolling hills, mesquite trees, cedar thickets, and open meadows. In other words, it’s ideal turkey habitat.

The outfitter carefully manages the flocks to ensure a healthy number of mature toms each year. What we really like is that hunters can use any combination of hunting strategies, which might include still hunting and calling as you soft-foot through the cover, or perhaps waiting patiently in a blind with decoys out front. No matter how you hunt, you’ll be accompanied by experienced guides who understand the art of bringing birds into range.

You’ll stay in a comfortable house right on the ranch with meals served by a full-time cook. (Expect famous Texas barbecue!) There’s also a centrally-located fire pit, an ideal place to unwind in the evening and share stories about your day’s experiences.

2. Florida Osceolas

Next, let’s talk about Florida, home to the elusive Osceola wild turkeys. They are considered the toughest bird of all North American turkeys to harvest, mostly because they are found only in the lower third of Florida.

So anyone interested in a real turkey challenge, or hoping to fill their Grand Slam, must hunt in Florida. And that’s where our experienced outfitter comes in. With large parcels of private farm and ranch land managed just for Osceolas, this outfitter has a lot of cards to play to get you on birds. And, to top it off, properties are managed in rotation so they aren’t hunted every year, meaning you’ll have more opportunities for mature, long-bearded, long-spurred 3-year or older gobblers.

Not surprisingly, success rates are high. And you can expect to hunt from blinds, or you might be running and gunning. And, bear in mind, alligator hunting is available, too.

3. Montana Merriam’s

Now, we head north to Montana, home of the Merriam’s turkeys with their bright creamy-white tipped tail feathers displayed in a spectacular fan. Wow. Just talking about them makes me want to head to east-central Montana where this hunt takes place on over 50,000 acres of private land. Pine-covered ridges, woody creek bottoms, and open hay meadows provide excellent turkey habitat and excellent cover for run-and-gun hunting, with calling and decoys of course. Just be prepared for an exciting hunt.

This outfitter also does an outstanding job of managing the properties and limiting the number of birds taken each year, which provides an overall quality hunt. You’ll stay in a comfortable 12-bedroom lodge with Montana-quality meals prepared fresh each day.

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