Lanny Barnes regales us with this tale of a recent hunt with her dad for Merriam’s in Colorado.
Some hunts are just a little bit more memorable than others, and this was certainly one of them. This year my dad asked if he could go with me. He hadn’t been turkey hunting with me in a few years, but had been on a majority of the last 25 years of my turkey hunts.
Sponsored by Fiocchi
As my dad gets older, I cherish the time he is able to get out with me to create lasting memories. These birds seem to become harder and harder to hunt with the increase in pressure from the rise in hunters chasing them on public land in our area.
I have been pursuing the wiry and hard-to-get public land Merriam’s in Colorado since 1994. The Colorado Division of wildlife re-introduced them back in the ’80s and they thrived. I hate to admit this, but there have been many years since 1994 where I have hunted Merriam’s harder than elk. They sometimes require a lot of effort for not lot of meat. These Merriam’s are, however, a very rewarding animal to hunt.
Before the hunt, my dad came over to help me pattern my shotgun. I was using the Fiocchi Golden Turkey in 3-inch, with 1-¾-ounce #5 nickle-plated shot. I patterned it every 10 yards from 10 to 60 yards, just to see what the pattern did. It gave me confidence in knowing that if I had to take a longer shot, it would work great, but it’s definitely more fun to get them in as close as possible. It also gave my dad the opportunity to joke with me about how he remembered a few years where I didn’t pattern my shotgun and bought the “cheap loads” and ended up missing a bird. Some things are an important part of the process and getting good ammo such as the Fiocchi Golden Turkey and patterning your shotgun can help make a hunt more successful.
Let me explain a few reasons why I think these Southwest Colorado Merriam’s are one of the hardest to hunt, but definitely one of the most rewarding. I have been lucky enough to hunt turkeys around much of the country and it always makes it much easier to sit from a blind over a feeder, but that is not possible and not legal in Colorado. You can sit in the blind, but it is never a guarantee that birds will come by and you’re are not allowed to bait the turkeys.
Also, these birds do not necessarily follow a pattern every day. Many different turkeys, like Rios for example, might fly out of the roost, head straight for the same field every day, then water, then head to scratch and forage in the trees. Merriam’s seem to hit the ground, spin a bottle and head whatever direction that bottle seems to land. They are also very “call shy.” Because of the amount of pressure on them, they tend to hear a turkey call from a human and end up running the other direction.
That is why I prefer spot-and-stalk on Merriam’s. As long as you have them talking, then you can sneak in on them. The hilly terrain makes it great for spot-and-stalk – where you can put some terrain between you and the bird to get in close. We also have found that the farther back into the woods/mountains you get, the less likely you are to have birds that have been pressured as much.
This hunt was no different. My dad and I knew that to get to the birds, we had to get as far back “in” as possible. We tried something different: e-bikes! It is hard for my dad to keep up, sometimes, so I knew that my Rambo pedal assist e-bikes would be able to get us several miles back in on the forest service roads to where we could hike in a few more miles and start hunting. My dad loved it and he had enough energy saved from a little assistance up the hills to make some calls and distract the birds so I could sneak in on them and get one.
We biked about six miles, to the edge of snow line, and there were birds everywhere. My dad did a great job on calling them and distracting the more-than-15 toms, while I snuck in above them and shot one with that Fiocchi Golden Turkey load – that dropped the bird in its tracks. My dad was so excited to be on the hunt and to have made it all the way back to that spot and still have energy, that he volunteered to carry my bird back to the bikes. We tied the bird to my bike and cruised on out. It was great getting that opportunity with my dad and I am grateful that he was there to share it with me. I think we will both remember this one for a long time.
If you are thinking about hunting Merriam’s in Colorado, first make sure you pattern your shotgun and get some good ammo, such as the Fiocchi Golden Turkey loads. Second, get in shape and be prepared to put in a good walk and/or get some Rambo e-bikes to help in assisting on your hunt.
Next, make sure that you practice your spot-and-stalk skills [Editor’s note: This is where a sling on your shotgun can come in mighty handy.] and if you hear them gobbling, keep your calling to a minimum and use a call only for locating them and sneaking in closer. These things can help you in having a successful and memorable hunt with these high altitude and hard to hunt birds.
Check out Fiocchi’s Golden Series, a fine line of bird hunting ammo, whether it’s for turkeys, ducks, geese or upland birds.