Merriam’s Turkey – Top Six Hunting States

By Charles •  7 min read

Many turkey hunters will tell you that Merriam’s are maybe the easiest turkeys to hunt. This may be true to a certain extent. However, the terrain these turkeys inhabit can be far from easy. Many of these areas are rough and mountainous. The hunts can be physically demanding especially on a public land DIY hunt.

Oh, did I forget to mention the weather. Most likely, it may still be cold in most of these states, especially in the north. You could be fighting cold spring rains or even snowstorms. Making sure you are prepared and have the correct gear may be the most important part of these hunts.

Top Six Merriam’s Turkey Hunting States


The majority of wild turkey hunters will agree that Wyoming is among the top Merriam’s locations if the the top location. There are both spring and fall turkey seasons in Wyoming. Everyone can buy general turkey tags Over The Counter. In addition, many units have limited quota tags that can be applied for that allow hunters to have more than one tag.

South Dakota

South Dakota offers both a spring and fall turkey season. If you are interested in hunting Merriam’s in South Dakota, you will need to apply for a license. You must apply enough time in advance for the tag to be mailed to you though.


Montana also offers both a spring and fall turkey season. They offer the possibility of getting multiple tags both general and through an application process.


Again, Nebraska offers both a spring and a fall turkey season. Hunters can but licenses Over-The-Counter or Online.


Both a spring and fall season is offered in Colorado. Like some of the other states Colorado offers Over-The-Counter tag or hunters can apply for additional tags.

New Mexico

As with all the other states on my list, New Mexico offers both a spring and fall turkey hunting season. Spring tags are available through a draw or Over-The-Counter. Falls season is Over-The-Counter only.

Merriam’s Turkey Physical Characteristics

The Merriam’s Turkey is roughly the same size as its cousin the Eastern Turkey. However, the coloration of these turkeys is what sets them apart. Most people believe that A Merriam’s Turkey resembles the Gould’s Turkey the closest.


  • To start the Merriam’s is a black turkey with blue, purple, and bronze reflections.
  • The main differences between the appearance of the Merriam’s and other subspecies are the white feathers on the lower back.  In addition, the tail feathers have white margins.
  • Another major difference is the white appearing rear. This happens because the tail covert and tips have a pink, buff, or white color.
  • A Merriam’s tail margin is not as white the Gould’s Turkey.  In addition, the tip of the tail does not have as wide of a light margin as the Gould’s.
  • If you happen to see a Merriam’s gobbler strutting against a dark background, the tail feathers will be pretty conspicuous.
  • Merriam’s toms often have breast feathers that are completely black.
  • Hens will have buff tipped breast feathers.
  • Finally, the area of a hen’s wing is covered in more white which gives them a whiter appearance when they have their wings folded.

Other Characteristics Of The Merriam’s Turkey

  • A full-grown adult male will weigh about 18 to 30 pounds
  • A full-grown adult female will weigh about 8 to 12 pounds
  • The Merriam’s has the weakest gobble of all the turkey subspecies
  • When compared to other turkey subspecies they have short to moderate beard length
  • Like the beard they have relatively short spurs

Range Of The Merriam’s Turkey

Historically, these turkeys were found in Colorado, Northern Arizona, and New Mexico. However, in more recent times, there have been introductions in many states.  The introductions have taken place in California, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Habitat Of The Merriam’s Turkey

  • The historic habitat of these turkeys was mostly ponderosa pine forests.
  • Now they can be found in other pine forests and many other vegetation types. 
  • They will inhabit elevations anywhere from 3,500 feet to 10,000 feet.
  • Finally, they will find areas with annual rainfall amounts between 15 and 23 inches on average.

Merriam’s Turkey Behavior

This will be only a brief overview of the turkey’s behavior. It is important to note that the only time that toms and hens are actually flock together is during the breeding season. Depending on the part of the country they are in this could be anywhere from late March to Early June. The rest of the year they can be found in the same habitat types but not flocking together.

I will break down this section on the Merriam’s Turkey behavior down according to the four seasons.

Winter Behavior

As winter settles in, the hens and poults will be in larger winter flocks with other hens and poults. They will try to remain as high up in elevation as the can. However, Merriam’s will begin to move to lower elevations as the snow starts accumulating too deep. 

When in an area with pinyon pine and oak, these winter flocks will most often be found at the convergence of that zone and ponderosa pine. Otherwise, they may winter in large ponderosa pine thickets.

Spring Behavior

As the snow begins to melt in spring, Merriam’s turkeys will follow the snow melt and snow line up to higher elevations. With the continued increase in temperatures, toms will begin to gobble and form harems of hens. This behavior will herald the beginning of the breeding season.

Merriam’s Turkey Breeding Season

In some of the warmer states, gobbling can start as early as late February. However, in most areas gobbling starts in mid to late March. Gobbling behavior may slack off then pick up again in early May and then continue into June.

Hens will mate one time and can fertilize all of her 8 to 12 eggs from just this one mating. Once the hen has mated, she will move into thicker habitat at much higher elevations. The typical incubation period for their eggs is 28 days. However, she will not begin to incubate the eggs until all eggs are laid. Finally, all the turkey eggs will hatch at the same time.

Summer Behavior

Summer season will begin with the hatching of the young poults. The young are able to move from the nest very soon after hatching and the hen take them out in search of food. The hens and poults will spend most of their time during the summer loafing, eating, and gaining weight. They will search out bugs and seeds for food with most of the time in forest meadows and openings. Toms will be spending their time in the same type of areas looking for the same food but will not spend time with the hens.

Fall Behavior

With the onset of fall and the approach of winter, all Merriam’s Turkeys will switch feeding behavior. In areas with oaks and pinyons, the masts from these trees will ripen. The turkeys will focus feeding on these mast crops. In other areas, the turkeys will find similar mast crops to feed on. They will follow these food sources and as snow falls, they will continue down to lower elevations.

Featured Photo form WikiCommons


Charles is a man who loves the outdoors. He moved to Wyoming specifically to spend more time in the mountains and wilderness. A hunter and fisherman, Charles knows how to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. He is an outdoorsman through and through, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Charles is the President of Absaroka Enterprises, an company focuse on outdoor entertainment and endeavours. He's also an Editor for Alpha and Omega Outdoors, an online hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, and all around outdoors blog.

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