As hunters, we are forever the students. When we start out, many of us are often introduced by family or friends. Some of us may have started out as young children, and others later in life. Regardless of how we fell into hunting, the fact is we never stop learning. We read articles, watch the outdoor channels on TV, attend public speaking events, and go out into the field to test our skills. All are great ways of gaining knowledge and putting newly learned skills to the test.
I recently attended one of the Backcountry Hunter and Anglers get-togethers as they were holding a Turkey Hunting Workshop. Native New-Mexican biologist Don DeLorenzo shared his turkey hunting expertise on everything from locating good habitat to tracking and calling. He discussed the 3 different types of turkey species in New Mexico, the transitions turkeys make from Winter ground to Spring, various calls and decoys, and weapon choices:
- New Mexico is home to three of the five recognized North American subspecies of wild turkey. The Merriam’s turkey is typically associated with areas of ponderosa pine, the Rio Grande turkey principally occupies areas in the northeast, central, and southeast portions of the state, and the Gould’s turkey is confined to the woodland-savanna habitat in the Peloncillo and Animas Mountains of southwest New Mexico. The Gould’s turkey is state-listed as a threatened species. The statewide turkey population is unknown at this time, but in 2007 it was estimated at 25,000 to 35,000 birds. These previous numbers as well as distribution information were based primarily upon field observations from Department district personnel in the mid-1990s. The Department does not currently conduct population surveys except gobbling surveys and occasional winter flock surveys for Gould’s turkey. The public has become more aware of wild turkeys and therefore the demand for recreational use has increased. The Department’s goal is to meet ecological and recreational expectations of the public and resolve associated issues to the satisfaction of all interests.
- In the springtime, hunters will want to target the southern slopes as turkeys are working towards their “nesting grounds”. They will follow the snow line and all the fresh early spring vegetation that is coming up. The Merriam’s like to roost in tall ponderosa pines. These trees offer large and wide opening that allow easy flight in and out of them. Your Rio Grandes will roost in anything from a Pinon to Cottonwood depending on the area they are in and availability to them. Turkeys can often hear a turkey call from great distances. Mr. DeLorenzo said he has seen them respond as far as 600 yards away off a ridge. While turkeys are not the keenest on smell, they can detect movement very well.
- When it comes to Calls, there are a wide variety of calls–the most common being the box call, diaphragm call, Turkey Pot Call and the Push and Pull Turkey Calls. Turkeys are known to have 28 different calls. Finding a call that allows you to target some of the more common calls will help when hunting these birds. It was interesting when he brought up decoys. Knowing your area is important, and he advised that here in NM, with our ever-changing wind, to avoid the decoys that swivel. NM wind is often unforgiving, and these types of decoys are more likely to scare a bird away rather than bring one in.
- Depending on what weapon system you chose, target practice is a given! If you are using a shotgun, it is important to pattern your gun. You should also know how it patterns at different distances. Knowing the capabilities of your weapon so that you know you will be making a fatal shot and avoid crippling a bird. Archers can have even more difficulty. Use of a broadhead to guillotine your bird will bring greater success in recovery. Aim for the base of the neck to “spine” and make a fatal shot. If you shoot anywhere else, you are often dealing with a pass through of the arrow. This leaves the hunter with little to work with, as you are relying on cut feathers and often a lack of a blood trail because the feathers often catch the blood.
New Mexico turkey season is approaching. NM offers Over-the-counter (OTC) License in the state to both Resident and Non-Resident hunters. The youth hunt for Spring is April 6-8. Areas open for Spring Turkey is April 15-May 10th. Please review the current Hunting Rules and Information booklet for regulations, requirements, species information and hunt codes specific to each hunt:
The NM Department of Game and Fish will advise what units are open to hunt with your OTC tag. It will also advise the bag limit. While in Spring the bag limit is 2 bearded Turkeys, there are some restricted areas that only allow you to bag 1. The beard and patch feathers surrounding the beard must remain on the bird until it is delivered to the place it is to be eaten or placed in final storage.
Best of luck to all the spring turkey hunters out there! Thanks for reading, and as always, happy hunting to you all!