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New Mexico 2015 (Part II)

Posted April 20th, 2015 at 01:50 PM by Black Spurs
Updated April 20th, 2015 at 02:47 PM by Black Spurs

I made my way down an old trail for a mile or so that had very little use in the way of human traffic and came into a controlled burn area that looked like a piece of Mississippi had been transplanted to 7500 feet above sea level. I moved slowly along the trail until I came to what looked like a field in the middle of the woods. It was one of those meadows or parks you see on hunting shows out from out west. It appeared to have some sort of natural spring seeping into a drainage, a low spot in the middle of the field had green shoots of grass and clover in it. I stopped and started to think about how this place had everything any animal would want: food, water, seclusion, etc. Suddenly, I saw something move. It was a turkey on the other side of the meadow, then another, another, and on and on until there were about 30 turkeys in the meadow. One full fan was on the other side of meadow, about 200 yards from me. The gobbler strutted and followed a large flock of hens and gobblers out of the field and hit the same trail I was on but continued further up the mountain. It was just too open to move on them, so I just watched and figured I would go back and build a little blind at the edge of the field.

The temperature Friday morning was 19. I got into my blind at the edge of the meadow well before daylight and waited. Several turkeys started gobbling to my right. I figured they would eventually show up in the meadow. So, I just stayed where I was. Once they hit the ground, everything became quiet. I called sparingly and waited. About 7:14, a turkey gobbled so loud that I flinched. At first, I couldn’t tell if he was behind me or in front of me. I was set up for turkeys to come from the front where I had been hearing them. But, I caught the back end of the gobble and was convinced he was behind me. As I eased around, I saw a long beard about 150 yards away. He was running towards me, and I was out of position. He ran into a small dip in the terrain, and I quickly shifted positions. About 70 yards out, the turkey stopped, picked up his head, and then took off running to my right, arching further away from me.

“You gotta be kidding me,” went through my head. Then, I saw the source of his fright. I group of nine jakes were running close behind. They ran up close to my blind, and I blasted one. The other jakes ran on out of the meadow behind the longbeard, and I pumped another shell in the chamber of the 870. One of his buddies was still in range, running dead away from me. I pulled the trigger, but the gun snapped; I short stroked the pump and didn’t fully eject the first shot shell. I wasn’t concerned. I really wanted to kill that big one that came in first, but I was taking what the good Lord gave me.

Later that morning, my buddy and his son ended up missing a turkey in the next canyon over. Actually, they both should have killed turkeys out of that bunch. They were hearing lots of turkeys gobble, and we were all seeing tons of jakes and a few longbeards. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen as many jakes as we saw here. The young man was dejected about missing and spent the rest of the day desperately trying to make something happen. As most of you probably know, that is usually an invitation for frustration. The wind was howling; the turkeys weren’t gobbling after they hit the ground. The best thing to do in the middle of the day was take a nap and relax around the camp, which is what I did until it was time to go roost a turkey.

I am to the point in my turkey hunting life where I just sort of kick back after I kill one. I will hunt hard for that first one, but after that, I don’t really care if I get another one or not most years. I end up taking other and watching them shoot quite a bit. As such, I went with them to roost a bird. We got to the spot, and some guys came down the road in a loud truck and went into the area where we were listening for a gobbler. My buddy and his son were not happy, nor was I. But it is public land and the Friday evening before the first Saturday of the season. These things happen. I suggested that they come with me in the morning and possibly get a double. My buddy decided to go to another spot, and asked if his son could come with me.

The temperature was in the upper 20’s on our final hunt, and things played out much the same as the day before. The turkeys gobbled up the ridge from us and got quiet quickly, but at 6:51, I heard a shot on top of the ridge where we had been the day before. By 7:00, the turkeys had stopped gobbling. By the time 7:30 rolled around, I was thinking Nick might give it up. I continued to call periodically, and we both saw a turkey about a 150 yards away. Nick said “There is a turkey,” about the same time I saw him. I looked at him hard, and I told Nick that the bird was a gobbler. Suddenly, the turkey gobbled hard and long. WOW!!! I called to him, and he answered me loudly. The turkey started moving to our right and stopped in the green sprouts in the middle of the field, too far. Then, he started moving again and crossed closer to us at the pine tree I had picked as the “he-is-in-range-now” tree. Nick used the cover I had put around the tree to move his shotgun around almost all the way and the Longbeard XR’s laid him down at 45 yards.

After we got that taken care of, we made the long walk back to our pick up spot where Nick’s dad was waiting for us in the truck. It was time to get home. We had a great time in the Gila, but the terrain, the breeding stage of the flocks, the weather, and the pressure all play factors in how “easy” the birds are. This week was not easy. We had to cover a great deal of ground to find and get to turkeys. I would also recommend not going with a closed mind about shooting a jake. The people I saw and talked to out there shoot legal turkeys. So, it isn’t like you are “managing” future seasons out there. Other recommendations I would give would be the following:

• Make sure you are in good physical condition. You don’t have to run marathon or greater distances in the mountains to do this terrain, but being in good physical shape is helpful. There are places in the Gila that qualify as extreme backcountry. You need to be prepared.
• Make sure you have some decent land navigation skills.
• Bring warm clothes.
• Drink twice as much as you think you need. (water, not beer)

Overall, I would say we had a very successful trip out west to get a Merriam’s turkey. I think we may go back there next year or the year after. My buddies from New Mexico, who work for the US Fish and Game and USGS had a decent hunt that resulted in a miss. They went home and said they would come back in there in a week or two when the “Toms were talking better.” We ended up with two. Thanks for reading. I have left out so many details, but there is only so much you can tell in this format.

The pictures attached are my turkey, Nick's turkey, and the meadow where we killed them.
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  1. Old Comment
    Crawl79's Avatar
    Awesome, turkeys are turkeys no matter what part of the country. I prefer to hunt later in the season on my out of state hunts as human and hen pressure is down. We will be planning our 2016 trip mid to later in season.
    Posted April 20th, 2015 at 04:57 PM by Crawl79 Crawl79 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Black Spurs's Avatar
    Later is probably better. However, even though these turkeys didn't work very well to a call, it was a great trip.
    Posted April 21st, 2015 at 02:57 PM by Black Spurs Black Spurs is offline

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