Cottonwood Bottom: South Dakota Part One
Jason Brown, Chris Keefer and Casey Keefer head to the prairies of South Dakota to coax Merriam’s wild turkeys off the roost. It’s the first time the boys have hunted this sought-after bird sub-species in the western state. Their calls echo across the landscape, and the birds strut their stuff. When feathers are in sight, the crew goes to work with Winchester.
They don’t just walk….they strut.
They don’t just spread their wings…they fan their brilliant feathers.
They don’t just call….They gobble. And cluck. And yelp.
Wild turkeys are a show-stopping bird. With their signature plumage and token trills, they make their presence known within the woods and across golden fields. And when they do, hunters across the nation are waiting to answer their call.
There are four sub-species of wild turkeys often pursed by outdoorsmen in North America: Eastern, Merriam’s, Osceola, and Rio Grande. A fifth sub-species—the Gould’s wild turkey—is limited and less recognized, as they primarily dwell in the arid mountain regions of southern Arizona and New Mexico.
Back home in Michigan, the Keefer Brothers and Jason Brown dial in on the Eastern wild turkeys that call the Mitten State home. The friends switched things up as they searched for the Merriam’s white-tipped feathers in South Dakota. While Eastern’s and Merriam’s boast similar qualities, there are differences that set the birds apart.
The Eastern sub-species are tough turkeys that comb the woods and fields before they roost in the timber. They have dark chestnut and cinnamon tail feather tips that fan into pretty plumage. These birds have the strongest gobble, and the toms strut their stuff with large spurs and long beards.
Merriam’s wild turkeys, on the other hand, have noticeably shorter beards and spurs in comparison to their Eastern counterparts. Their lower back and tail feathers are dipped in bands of white, while their black feathers feature an iridescent sheen of purple, blue and bronze. Mainly located in the ponderosa pines and mountainous regions of the Western United States, Merriam’s are generally the same size as Eastern wild turkeys.
Regardless of sub-species or state, the wild turkey offers an exciting challenge. The thrill of the turkey hunt propels outdoorsmen to pick up their trusty Winchester firearm and head out toward the timber. When that gobble echoes in the air, the hunt is on…and the fun begins.