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Three Keys to Bagging More Merriam’s Gobblers

with Jim Joint 


I hunt both the Black Hills and the prairie here in South Dakota, but I love to hunt the Black Hills the most. I like the terrain of the Black Hills, and I enjoy hunting mountains and hollows. Most of the prairie is private ground. I do have some private property I can hunt down there, but there seems to be less turkey hunting pressure in the Black Hills – probably because most people don’t like to climb mountains. However, there are plenty of access roads into the Black Hills from the old mines and the logging operations that were here in the past.

I use my 4-wheeler and my truck to go into the Black Hills late in the afternoon and roost turkeys. Then I come back home at night, pull up Goggle Earth on my computer and study the area where I’ve heard the turkeys fly up to roost. On Google Earth, I can see about where I think the turkeys are roosting, and which road I need to take to get in close enough to those turkeys to hunt them when they fly down off the roost. I also can look at the Google Earth map and learn what the terrain around the area where the turkeys are roosted looks like. Then I’ll have a better idea of where they may go when they fly down off the roost. Google Earth is my main scouting tool to know how to hunt any flock of turkeys that I locate. I look for the saddles and the meadows where the turkeys usually will go to strut or to cross a mountain. 

Another tool that has been extremely effective for me in finding turkeys and learning how to hunt them in the Black Hills is shed hunting. After deer season and before turkey season arrives, I go out into the woods and meadows and search for shed antlers. I'm also looking for turkeys and turkey sign. That way, when I find a flock of turkeys I want to hunt, I've got Google Maps to find the road to take to get to those turkeys before daylight. I can look at that terrain and match it with where I’ve found turkeys and seen turkey sign. Then I can pretty much pinpoint where the turkeys will go during turkey season after they fly off the roost, and why they're traveling in that direction. 

If someone asks me, “What are the most-effective tools you use to locate and take Merriam’s turkeys in the Black Hills?” I’ll say, “Become a shed hunter, because shed hunting puts you in the woods where you'll be turkey hunting before the season and allows you to see turkeys and turkey sign.” Next, I’ll tell them, “Roost turkeys at night, and then use Google Maps to see how to get close to the roost tree, and to pinpoint where the turkeys are most likely to go after they fly down from the roost.” 

Day 2: Merriam’s Gobblers When They're with Hens 

Tomorrow: One of My Most Favorite Hunts

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