Even though it is only mid-February, I would like to think that spring is in the air with this past week’s warmup. If you have lived in the Rim Country for any length of time, this kind of balmy weather may just be an interlude before the next winter blast.
Legendary baseball coach, Tom Meck, used to say, “Winter isn’t over until the Longhorns have played at least half of their season.” No doubt current head coach, Jerry Daniels, will have to reschedule a game or two because of a spring snow! So let’s enjoy this welcome weather while it lasts.
On a recent early morning hike, I heard a couple of tom turkeys gobbling up a storm, so I had to take a closer look. There were two male birds strutting and drumming for a dozen hens that were watching the show. This is obviously a bit early, but the warm weather certainly triggered the mating ritual of these Merriam turkeys under the Rim.
The spring gobbler hunt is still a month and a half away, but if you are one of the lucky ones with a tag, it is possible to start locating birds in the local units. The telltale gobble at the crack of dawn is a welcome song to the hens in the area, as well as the hunter in the field. On a calm, crisp morning, it is possible to hear the distinct gobble within a mile radius from your location. A short hike to a highpoint on a ridge line or a hill can certainly improve your listening ability.
The turkey populations in unit 22 and 23 have improved over the last three years with the improved feed and grasses created by controlled burns and some wildfires. Hunters in the field pursuing other big game have observed healthy numbers of birds throughout the Tonto National Forest which is beneath the Mogollon Rim. This is good news for the future of turkey hunting in the state of Arizona.
The Merriam turkey is the dominant bird located in central and northern ponderosa pine forests, while the Gould’s is found in extreme southern Arizona and a few Rio Grande’s are found in the strip country along the Utah border. The telltale white tips on the tail feathers of the Merriams is the most significant difference from the other two birds.
Wild turkeys are most talkative in the spring during the mating season, and this is the time to try your luck at luring a bird into close range with an artificial call. The most popular and maybe the easiest to use is the box call, which is made by numerous manufacturers. A real diehard turkey hunter may have as many as four or five different calls ready to use when a bird may hang up or refuse to come any closer for that perfect shot.
Spring is approaching and the turkeys will be sounding off in the woods, so create an early morning adventure by trying to call “old longbeard” for that camera shot or maybe the thrill of seeing a wild turkey. By the way, congratulations if you have a spring turkey tag.
This weekend enjoy the Arizona Rim Country, God’s creation.