Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Wild turkeys were once on the brink of extinction throughout most of North America. After many restoration efforts, the wild turkey has flourished and continues to strive throughout the United States and Mexico. In the 1900s, there were less than 30,000 wild turkeys and now there are over 7 million in North America.
Figure 1 “Photo” Wild Turkey in nature – If all five subspecies of wild turkeys are harvested, a hunter can obtain the North American Grand Slam. To score an American Grand Slam only four subspecies have to be harvested (Eastern, Rio Grande, Osceola, and Merriam’s). To count, all turkeys must be long bearded mature toms, called in and killed with a shotgun or bow during the spring seasons.
The 5 subspecies of wild turkey are the Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, and the Gould’s. With each subspecies is variation in color, habitat, and behavior. The wild Turkey makes very unique sounds, including clucks, purrs, yelps, and gobbles. Toms have spurs on their legs and beards hanging from their chests. It is possible, but rare, to have a hen, with a small beard.
To further raise the bar, a hunter can go after a World Grand Slam by harvesting an Oscellated Turkey in South America!! To learn more about the Oscellated Turkey read Henry Browning’s hunting article titled “Hunting Turkeys in the Jungle”, available on this website.
Appearance: Gobblers: Iridescent red, green, copper, gold feathers, with brightly colored nearly hairless heads. Hens: Drab brown and gray feathers with a gray blue head.
Nature Status: Not considered threatened or endangered.
Natural Predators: Humans, coyotes, cougars, foxes, eagles (adults), raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, rodents (eggs & nestlings)
Future: Support is still needed to continue efforts to conserve wild turkeys the most predominant is the NWTF (National Wild Turkey Foundation)
Figure 2 “Photo” Christie Bonniwell and a Wild Turkey that she harvested in Delaware, USA.
Preferred Gauge: 10, 12 or 20 gauge.
Shotguns: Most hunters can use a shotgun with a pistol grip on the stock to ensure stabilized shots. Others use any shotgun they are
comfortable using. Super full chokes are also recommended.
Ammunition: A 3 to a 3 1/2 in shell is preferred for turkey hunting since it is very hard to get them into shotgun range once they feel the pressure of hunting in the area.
Archery: To harvest a wild turkey with a bow is very challenging but very rewarding. Any compound or recurve bow, crossbow where legal.
Notes: Calling is the most effective way to get a tom close enough for harvest. Various calls can be used, including box calls, diaphragms, and slate calls.
Method: Start with calling to locate a tom. Once located, sit and wait methods on the ground produce the best opportunity for a successful harvest. Wild turkeys have excellent sight and can locate very small movements.