IN THE MARCH and April editions we profiled the Turkey Revolution quest where I set out in 2019 to photograph the “Grand Slam” of turkeys in a calendar year.
The Rio Grande came in Kerr County, TX, the eastern near Cato, NY and the Osceola near the Myakka River in southern Florida. The Merriam’s came at around 8,000 feet elevation in Colorado and there was a bonus.
It was a cinnamon phase Merriman’s hen with poults. It was a literal one in a million turkey and of the variety that intrigues me the most.
The Merriam’s turkey is often considered the most beautiful of the “Grand Slam.” It populates foothills, mountains, and plains in many western states.
They are abundant in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Idaho, and Washington. Huntable, albeit lesser, populations exist in California, Utah, North Dakota, and Oregon.
A little-known fact is that Texas has a remnant population of Merriam’s in the Trans Pecos region. Probably fewer than 500 pure Merriam’s exist in Texas, but they are present, according to Jason Hardin, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) turkey program leader.
Most of these birds are found in the Guadalupe Mountains but also dwell among other ranges in the region. Rio Grandes are also present in mountainous country including Southwest Texas, Mexico, New Mexico, and Colorado. Various wildlife agencies have translocated them into areas beyond their native range as well. This includes Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, and California, as well as Hawaii.
The most elusive of mountain turkeys however is the Gould’s turkey.
Most abundant in northern-central Mexico, Gould’s are also present in Arizona and New Mexico and are a real prize for hunters. Getting a “Grand Slam” plus a Gould’s equals the coveted “Royal Slam.” It’s the turkey-hunting equivalent to getting a North American Grand Slam for sheep and bagging an argali in Mongolia.
Annually, New Mexico offers only two Gould’s tags. One of those is auctioned off at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) annual banquet. The state auctions the other tag.
It’s very similar to what is done with wild sheep, and the money goes directly back to Gould’s turkey conservation work. Recently, New Mexico traded 100 pronghorns with Mexico for 100 Gould’s which were on their way at the time of this writing.
According to officials with the Arizona Game & Fish Department, Gould’s were an important food source for those who settled and worked in the rugged lands of southern Arizona years ago. Between the Civil War and World War I, miners working in southern Arizona hunted Gould’s for many of their meals.
By the time Arizona had legal hunting seasons in 1929, Gould’s turkey had already disappeared from the scene. However, these birds are making comeback tracks in the Huachucas and other mountain ranges in southern Arizona.”
Arizona operates on a lottery draw-style permit for Gould’s turkey. Many hunters go through an outfitter to help with the process as well as increase the odds of the highly challenging hunting required.
Hopefully by the time this reaches subscribers this COVID-19 crisis will have passed, and I will be in New Mexico and Arizona in search of Gould’s turkey continuing the Turkey Revolution quest.
You will be able to read all about it at fishgame.com.
—story by CHESTER MOORE