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By Brett Grimm
Heartland Hunters Pro Staff

I remember watching a Turkey Hunting Video at a young age; I set my eyes on this glorious Tom strutting across my TV screen. But, this bird was different than the turkeys I was used to seeing in Missouri, he had all these beautiful white tips on his fan complimented by a sun drenched mountain back drop when all of a sudden, BANG! An elated hunter jumped up as he harvested, in my opinion, the most beautiful Turkey I had seen. I was told those turkeys only live out West, and later, found out were called Merriam’s. It was an image and dream that I would carry in my mind until now.

While I was attending my local NWTF Chapter Banquet, in Hermann, Mo. I was the fortunate bidder on a Merriam Turkey Hunt. I contacted Lone Star Outfitters who donated the hunt and made the necessary arrangements. It was to be a mid April hunt; I was eager to go and could not believe this was starting to come together. The time had come to make the trip out west for the bird that I had envied for so long. I was hunting the great state of Colorado near the city of Trinidad. My dream of a Merriam Turkey hunt was turning into reality.

As I set off on my journey, my enthusiasm was increasingly growing the further West I drove. Through the Missouri Ozarks into the fertile grounds of the Kansas heartland following the legendary Santa Fe Trail into the High Plains of Eastern Colorado. The Santa Fe Trail has been long since covered by concrete highways and steel tracks of the railroad. As I drove this modernized trail, looking at the horizon, I thought of what some people refer to as a simpler time, the American tale of the old west, the caravans of traders in their covered wagons, trying to traverse this beautiful but unforgiving landscape thinking of the hardships the early pioneers must have endured along this risky trail, Indian attacks, lack of food and water. All the while my biggest concern was losing cell phone service at speeds that some lawmen may find questionable.

Reaching my hunting destination of Long Canyon an area nestled into the foot heals of the Continental divide, the landscape was dry and in desperate need of some spring rains, but the vibrant green pine trees surrounded by the yellow straw like grass all framed against the distant Snow covered purple mountains of the Spanish Peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Range made it abundantly clear why Colorado is called “The Colorful State”

Early the next morning our hunt started without delay as several gobbles could be heard echoing off the ridge above us, my guide Phil leading me through this Mountainous terrain, softly calling, trying to coax these obscure Toms into our set up. Mornings of a spring turkey hunt are always so exhilarating with the sounds of the nature coming alive on a cool crisp morning. Due east of us, Fishers peak would hide the sun and shadow the walls along the canyon for a bit longer as the song birds chirped with excitement for the coming day. This was a different hunt that my usual Eastern Turkey hunts in Missouri. The dry rocky terrain, large drainages and Mountain hills that will literally suck the breath right out of you as we tried to negotiate our way through the thick pines of the alpine meadows. Not interested in our calls the Gobblers flew down to the next ridge which looked to me like it was another Mountain range.

We worked a couple more birds that morning, unable to close the distance; we decided to move to another part of the ranch. Driving down the gravel roads used to service the many natural gas wells in this mineral rich area. We spotted a fine-looking tom alone in a field heading into a thick cluster of Pinion Pines. We bailed out of the truck and moved fast to try and set up on this bird and again the high altitudes can make the easiest of inclines seem like climbing Mount Everest. Phil gave a soft call to establish if the turkey was still in the area and immediately the anxious tom sounded off with a gobble that was awfully close.

I sat down under a large Spruce tree and tried to conceal myself, as Phil disappeared behind me 30 or 40 yards and starting to call to this love sick tom. I was ready for this bird to walk out right in front of me, instead, the elusive tom thundered to my immediate right, momentarily contemplating how he had traveled to the spot we just hastily walked in from. I made the transition around the base of the tree as quickly and quietly as possible. Just as I got settled he gobbled and there he was, fanned out and strutting toward me over a small knoll with the Sun reflecting off his iridescent feathers behind him a soft blue sky scattered with fluffy white clouds made this Boss Tom look larger than life.

He was committed to the calls and was coming in without delay when he swiftly disappeared behind a small fir tree, still gobbling and strutting. I made a last second adjustment planning to take him as he cleared the tree. The tom hastily appeared on the other side of the pine still looking for the hen he had been hearing. He gobbled one last time at 20 yards and I squeezed the trigger of my Remington 870 and the impressive tom dropped to the ground.

I jumped up with delight and ran to my bird that lay still in the dry grass. My guide Phil hollering and screaming with excitement as he ran down the hill to congratulate me. The magical white tips of the tail feathers, the large bright red waddle and elongated snood, it was not only a stunning bird but impressive at nearly 22lbs with an 8 inch beard. It was an adventure hunt that I had been pondering for so long that had finally come to conclusion. I thought it may have been a younger bird from what seemed to me were small spurs at only 3/4 inches, when Phil explained to me that most Merriam’s in this area have smaller spurs due to the rocky terrain they live in and these were some of the largest he has seen this season.

I recalled those videos as a kid seeing the Merriam Turkey for the first time and now the reality of that dream just played out before my eyes. I couldn’t have been happier as we snapped a few photos and reflected on a great hunt, all the birds I had seen that morning, followed by tagging out before noon on the first day. It was a journey and adventure that I will not soon forget.

 


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