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Rio Grande and Merriam Turkeys


As the turkey hunter moves west, we find the Rio Grande turkey. Originally found in Texas along the Rio Grande, this subspecies has been transplanted into other parts of the country making it the second most populated turkey subspecies. Found now in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, California, Oregon and Washington. With a few remnants found in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico. The Rio is believed by many to be the easiest of all subspecies to hunt.

Spending most of its time in large flocks, the Rio can be called in with a variety of calls. The same tactics often work on the Rio as on the Eastern. And multiple birds often respond to the calls. Hunting tactics of the Rio is similar to that of the Eastern except in the plains states. The vast plains make it difficult to set up on this bird and it requires some stealth to get into a great set up.

One great set up in the open plains is using farm equipment as a blind. Many birds are used to seeing these dot the landscape and really do not pay any attention to the rusting old giants. Setting up in old farm machinery can be what makes or breaks a good hunt. Similarly, old farmsteads are also great locations. The plains offer the difficulty of finding good roosting sites, finding these and getting within a good calling distance can make it easier. Getting a Rio is a great trophy for any Turkey hunter. The coloration of the Rio is different from the Eastern or Merriam where the tips of his tail and upper tail are buff in color

Merriam turkeys on the other hand are found in the pines of the western mountains of Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. The Merriam is distinguished by the white tips of his tail, and the lower back of his body is also tipped with white. The adult Merriam is smaller than other subspecies and as stated, is recognized by this coloration. Many state that the Merriam is the most handsome of all of the turkeys in North America, but I would have to put the Eastern ahead of him. Perhaps that is biased, if it is then so be it. But I must agree that the Merriam is surely a handsome bird.

Hunting the western subspecies is different from the eastern cousin, if for no other reason than the terrain is so vastly different. Still, if you have a chance to pursue these birds, take that opportunity. It will not be wasted.