Last year I experienced one of the coolest hunts of my life with about 100 turkeys in one flock! Early season in the Midwest, Merriam’s wild turkey are usually in their winter flock. Unlike the Eastern turkey winter flocks that range from 10-50 birds, there can be 100 to even 300 turkeys in a group. Most would say this is a turkey hunter’s dream, but coming from experience, it can truly be a nightmare.
So, what’s the challenge? When birds are flocked up early like this, they see piles of toms and hens every day. They are also living in the area where they just spent the entire winter. Decoys are less effective because they are not aggressive towards newcomers since they are still figuring out a pecking order amongst themselves. It’s important to note that they aren’t as desperate due to the fact there are so many hens in the group. The final challenge is the number of eyeballs. Birds you haven’t even noticed can pick you out very quickly.
So, what’s the solution? The biggest piece of advice that I could give with these early season turkeys is to scout. Understanding what the big flock is doing and where they are going is key to a successful hunt. Your best chance is to see where they’re going and get in front of them. The worst thing you can do with a flock this big is follow them. When a group of Merriam’s move, it’s usually forward.
As far as calling is concerned, the only way I have been successful is to get the hens walking my way or break a two-year-old off from the bunch. I found it was best to start with aggressive calling to get their attention and then call softer in order to prevent any hens from detouring.
When I finally pulled a tom away from the flock, the pressure was truly on. I knew I only had one shot. I have to be honest, I respect the lethality of TSS, but it was starting to do a number on my shoulder. Luckily, I had a sample of the new HEVI-18 Reduced Recoil 2 ¾”. At 1090 fps it still packed a punch and helped me bag my turkey.
All in all, my hunt in the Midwest for Merriam’s was incredible! We harvested one bird out of the bunch and left the rest to break apart as the weather warmed up. Hearing that much gobbling and yelping made my soul happy!
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