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Turkey Tracks

Spring Turkey Hunting In Teller County Colorado

Trekking around in turkey country before the hunting season opens is a step in the right direction for spring turkey hunters. Time spent in the woods arouses hunting instincts, conditions the body, and, optimistically, provides the answer to the toughest question put to hunters that purchase unlimited licenses "Where do I hunt on Opening Day"

Hunting Merriam's wild turkeys in the mountains can be overwhelming, considering their wily nature and the vast amount of territory within their range. Unlike the Rio Grande turkeys that inhabit the relatively narrow confines of wooded river bottoms on the Plains, Merriam's turkeys live in places where there is plenty of room to roam.

Although a flock of Merriam's turkeys may travel several miles a day, roosting in a different tree every night, they typically remain within a loosely defined areas such as wide drainages separated by long ridges. During winter months, Merriam's turkeys travel together in large flocks. However, as spring approaches, the flocks disperse into smaller breeding groups of mature toms and hens. As the groups disperse, some move into the backcountry, becoming a challenge for hunters to locate.

So, strap on the hiking boots and hustle off to the hills in coming weeks while you can scout for turkeys in relative solitude until April 14. That is when the season opens and the hills come alive with hunters. Taking the time and expending the energy now to locate a breeding group of turkeys in a less-traveled location could put you in the right place at the right time on Opening Day.

Scouting is especially important if you plan to hunt anywhere on the Front Range. Although there are good numbers of turkeys inhabiting the foothills from Fort Collins to Fort Carson, the area receives more than its share of hunting pressure. However, if circumstances prevent you from hunting elsewhere, Pike National Forest has many off-the-beaten-path locations that harbor turkeys, and you will only find them if you are willing to go the distance.

Between Rampart Range and the Tarryall Mountains, there are thousands of acres of National Forest with dozens of trails leading into prime turkey habitat. Established trails are useful for getting you into a remote area, but do not hesitate to get off the trail when scouting. These tactics are effective for locating breeding groups of wild turkeys in all areas of the state.

When you find a promising area, walk slowly beside the creek, watching the ground closely for sign. Turkeys are heavy birds that leave a lot of evidence behind as they move about. Turkey sign includes the well-defined three-toed tracks that the birds leave in patches of snow or in the mud, and the brown and white droppings they leave everywhere they go. Also, look for disturbed areas of the forest floor where the birds have scratched away leaves in search of insects.

Hike to the top of a ridge where you have a view of a meadow or open areas in the forest, and sit still. Use binoculars to scan the hillsides. Turkeys are always on the move, so be patient. If you have found fresh sign in the area, they will be nearby. If you actually see turkeys, or if you find enough sign to convince you of their presence, remember the place by marking the location on a map. Some hunters store the coordinates on handheld GPS units; this can be useful in returning in the dark to a location that is far from the trail.
Flock of Spring Turkeys Keep your ears open. Wild turkeys are a noisy lot, the hens cluck and purr almost continuously when they are not on the alert. Once, while sitting in heavy oak brush and glassing a distant meadow, I heard a flock of turkeys coming up the hill behind me. A flock of more than 20 hens and jakes walked right around the tree where I sat motionless.

As the season nears, the mature toms will begin to gobble at sunrise and again at sunset. Some hunters wait for the season to open and then drive the forest roads in the evenings and listen for the turkey to gobble as they fly up to their roosts. Once on the roost, the turkeys will stay there all night. Turkey hunters call this tactic "putting them to bed." The problem with hunting turkeys within earshot of a road is that you might hike in to the spot in the dark only to find another hunter that also put the turkeys to bed.
by Dennis McKinney
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