By: Kirstie PIke
CEO Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women
You know, they aren’t kidding when they say that Merriams are tough hunting. Their preference for mountainous terrain, their love for wooded cover and their disdain for dying at my hands makes them difficult at best. While I am really giving it the college try this year by hunting solo (I have yet to harvest a Merriam) I have learned much…what I fondly call my discourse of humility and rage. Here are my lessons learned so far…
What I have love most about hunting this bird is the perpetual spot and stalk. I verge on ADHD and cannot sit still long. Not to mention, the older I get the more it hurts to, well, sit. I have found more action by setting up. Calling a bit. Waiting it out for some avian communication may take some time, but once you get some noise, be patient. Don’t over call. A lesson I am learning the hard way. If nothing is happening, it doesn’t hurt to move on.
I have also found that spending a fair amount of time just scouting the region if the hunting is cold has been very helpful. Locating water, roosts and feeding routes can be very helpful.
Be prepared to put on some miles. Covering more ground gives more opportunity. Merriams have a wide range and are considered to be turkey nomads. It is not uncommon to put on four or five miles in a morning.
Use a locator call in the morning. Crow or owl work well. I am still working on honing this skill, but I have found it to be helpful.
I am a minimalist by nature. I don’t like to pack a lot with me. It is typically unnecessary. Too much gear is, well, just too much. Short of a weapon, decoy, call and binoculars I have found that a GPS with ONXMaps HUNT is invaluable. If you are not familiar, ONXMaps can be purchased for use on your GPS or on your cell phone. Warning- cellphone app is not helpful if you have no service. You can purchase a card for the state you hunt and this provide very detailed mapping that allows you to know precisely where public vs private land exists. The first time I used it I was impressed. Had I NOT had it, I would have really limited myself on hunting area by not knowing the actual boundaries. Not to mention, (and this is no lie) I may have had to start making a waypoint for my truck each time I go out as I tend to lose that sucker every time. In fact, I could swear that someone moves it each time I go out. I mean, it IS possible.
I have come to rely on my GPS to mark roost trees and areas where I have found more activity. Given the fact that the Colorado terrain is far from open and flat, it can become a bit disorienting to relocate key areas. Directionally impaired or not, this feature saves a lot of time and frustration.
As the morning progresses, I have found that finding a high point with decent cover so I can glass the area is very helpful. In fact, I have found birds when I was about to hang it up for the day. If you have an entire day and don’t have to rush on to work, hang tight in the late morning and early afternoon near some open areas where you have found sign.
Now…as mentioned, these are my lessons learned to date. I am certain I will have a million more failures before a success…so stay tuned!