“TURKEY, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.” -Ambrose Bierce
My first true “season” of the year is quickly approaching. On Thursday, February 20th, 2014, the state of Utah will officially open up the purchasing window for the general turkey season! I am getting prepped for, what I am hoping, will be a successful turkey season.
The Utah turkey season runs April 28th to May 31st. There is also a limited-entry season and a youth season before the general season, but to get in on the limited=entry season you had to put in for a draw back in December. I like the general season. The limited-entry season is held during the rut for turkeys, but you can sometimes still catch the end of the rut in the general season. There are usually still a couple of toms out strutting their stuff.
If you are a resident of Utah, a general season tag is going to cost you $35. A non-resident can purchase a tag for $100. In either case, you still need to have the Hunter’s Education completed. I read up on a few other rules about turkey season in the Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. For example, you can only take a turkey with a bow or shot gun. Your shot gun can be no larger than a 10 gauge and no smaller than a 20 gauge. Your shot needs to be between a BB or a no. 8. Also, there is no baiting turkey in Utah and no spotlighting. Finally, you can not shoot turkeys that are roosting in a tree. More information about hunting in Utah can be found at: wildlife.utah.gov.
Utah is home to two varieties of turkey: the Rio Grande and the Merriam. There are over 20,000 birds residing in the state of Utah. In the area I live, southeastern Utah, the Rio Grande turkeys spend most of their time down by the Colorado River. Rio Grande turkeys’ habitat usually includes brush and they are found mostly next to rivers or streams. The Merriam turkeys tend to settle more in the mountains. Merriam turkeys tend to like areas with ponderosa trees, and while the mountains in our area are not heavy with ponderosa, the turkeys seem to seek out the smaller areas occupied by the trees. During the general season, you can harvest either type, but I was interested in learning about the differences between the two varieties.
The Rio Grande turkey is darker in color than the Merriam. They have dark breast feathers and a copper hue all over. The Rio, on average, weigh in around 20 pounds for a tom and 8 to 10 pounds for a hen. They are characterized by their overly long looking legs. The Rio Grande turkey is gregarious. I will admit: I actually had to look up the word gregarious. I had no idea what it meant. Looking at the word, I thought it meant something along the lines that Rio Grande turkeys were good fighters because the word gregarious makes me think of big dinosaurs or something. But no, actually the word means “sociable or fond of company.” So, the Rio Grande turkey is apparently a very social bird and likes the company of other turkeys.
One of the most notable characteristics of the Merriam turkey is the white tipped feathers running the course of the turkey’s body. Merriam turkeys are similar in color, with that gorgeous copper hue and deep iridescent black and purple feathers, to the Rio Grande turkey, but the white tips on their feathers make them truly stand out. Merriam turkeys tend to weigh around the same the Rio Grande turkey.
A few more quick turkey facts! First, turkeys are omnivores. They eat anything! The dinner menu can include acorns, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, lizards, bugs, salamanders, or whatever else seems to cross their path. Second, turkeys use their gobbling to attract the ladies! Male suitors strut around with their tails fanned out and feathers all fluffed up, gobbling and scrapping their wing tips along the ground, to get the attention of females. Female turkeys can hear gobbling from up to a mile away!
After researching a bit about turkeys, I am ready to start preparing for my spring turkey hunt. I am going to start putting some time into looking at calls, which I will share with you in another blog, and researching some great recipes to share after I bag my bird!
In the meantime, if anyone has any more information or comments about turkeys…I would love to hear them! I am becoming quite interested in learning more about the turkey than just Thanksgiving chat!