Seeking Advice for a Backpack Turkey Hunt (NM)

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Dec 29, 2020
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I am currently planning a backpack hunt for mountain turkeys in New Mexico (spring), and was hoping for a few pointers from someone that has been there and done that. I am a fairly experienced backpacker, but this will be my first backcountry hunt, as well as my first hunt for turkey. I am going with a buddy who is in a similar situation, currently looking at 3-5 days away from the truck. I have read every post on the subject I could find on Rokslide, if anyone has the time for a few of these more specific questions I have, I would really appreciate it.

1. Locating birds - I know there are no hard and fast rules, but what elevations should we be crusing in late April and early May? I'm curious about the higher ranges of the Gila National (7-8K), but should we be looking lower? I've read a lot about following the snowline, but don't know how vital that is. If you have a recommended locator call, I would love to hear about that as well.

2. Calls + Decoys - both me and my buddy have little experience calling, and want to cut as much weight as possible, given that we are hiking in. What calls would you recommend we take given these handicaps, and is a decoy worth the weight?

3. What am I forgetting? My pack list currently basically looks like my shoulder season backpacking list, except that I have added my shotgun, ammo, and a gun cleaning kit. I have a lightweight tarp that I was thinking of using as a portable blind. If you have gone on this adventure and have any must-brings I should add, I am open to any suggestions. That goes for tactics and anything else I missed as well, of course.

Thanks a lot in advance, this forum has been an awesome resource for a newbie western hunter.
 

Nickofthewoods

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Oct 5, 2018
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1) Those elevations sounds about right. There could also be birds higher or lower but I'd say you will be in the zone. If there are good numbers of mature Ponderosa pines around you are probably in a good area.

2) I'm not am expert here but I would bring a good box call at a minimum. I have inflatable decoys that are lightweight and very packable but for saving pack space you probably don't need decoys for unpressured Turkeys.

3) Since you won't be packing out big game you should be ok with typical backpacking gear for that time of year. Cold nights and mild days I would guess, but watch the forecast for spring storms prior to the trip of course. Sounds like fun good luck!
 
OP
S
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Dec 29, 2020
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1) Those elevations sounds about right. There could also be birds higher or lower but I'd say you will be in the zone. If there are good numbers of mature Ponderosa pines around you are probably in a good area.

2) I'm not am expert here but I would bring a good box call at a minimum. I have inflatable decoys that are lightweight and very packable but for saving pack space you probably don't need decoys for unpressured Turkeys.

3) Since you won't be packing out big game you should be ok with typical backpacking gear for that time of year. Cold nights and mild days I would guess, but watch the forecast for spring storms prior to the trip of course. Sounds like fun good luck!
Inflatable decoys didn't even cross my mind, that's definitely going on the list. Thanks!
 

hobbes

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Jun 6, 2012
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I'd get some experience hunting turkeys before I did a backpack hunt for them in NM. Do you live in NM? If so, then that's different.

I wouldn't venture far above the snowline but there will be birds below it. They like the fresh green grasses that are coming up right below snowline. There is nothing to eat above.

Merriam's, especially mountain birds, can require covering a lot of ground to locate. I call a lot to locate and to kill them. Merriam's are somewhat nomadic, especially in the mountains, and often cover a lot of ground.

Start practicing calls now. A box call is the easiest to learn. I primarily use diaphragm (mouth) calls, but some folks just flat out suck at using them. Find some good video instruction on calling. There are some terrible guys out there giving instruction so do your homework. Don't be surprised if the guys giving you the lessons have a southern or Midwestern accent. Turkey hunting has been a tradition there for decades (more so farther south) so they know how to kill turkeys, period. That doesn't mean there aren't some knowledgeable guys in the West because there darn sure are. Besides, I live in MT :) I'm just not from here. Two suggestions are Joe Slaton with Motherlode Calls (California)for some good calling instruction and Dave Owens with the Pinhoti Project (Georgia). Dave records hunts all across the nation each year. Another good one is Shane Simpson

The first thing that I would lose from your list is the blinds and decoys. They aren't necessary.
 
OP
S
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Dec 29, 2020
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I'd get some experience hunting turkeys before I did a backpack hunt for them in NM. Do you live in NM? If so, then that's different.

I wouldn't venture far above the snowline but there will be birds below it. They like the fresh green grasses that are coming up right below snowline. There is nothing to eat above.

I really appreciate the detailed reply, and will take all that to heart. I most likely will not get a chance at a second turkey hunt this upcoming spring, but I'll start with the calling practice immediately. If I'm understanding you correctly, walking+calling is better than sitting in one place with a decoy for Merriam's? Do you use the diaphragm as a locator as well? TIA
 

Felix40

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New Mexico
There won’t be a well defined snow line that time of year. Most likely just patches on north slopes and in bottoms of canyons. They can be pretty much any elevation as long as there’s a few trees
 

Austink47

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Dec 1, 2018
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437
Turkey is the perfect first backpack hunt. Here are some random lessons I have learned.
Personally 90% of my calling is done with a diaphragm call, it is very advantageous to be able to call hands free.
Take some kind of locator call, crow, peacock, elk. Something sharp and loud. There are times they will shock gobble but not respond to turkey calls.
cover ground and call mid day. You will hear lots of gobbles at first light, but the birds that gobble from 10-2 are very killable.
decoys work but are not at all essential, certainly don’t get busted setting up decoys if you have a bird coming to calls. I personally don’t carry them.
As others have said mature well spaced preferably recently burned ponderosa areas are gold. Most of the birds I have killed I am sitting at the base of a big fat Ponderosa.
Good luck and have fun.
 

hobbes

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I really appreciate the detailed reply, and will take all that to heart. I most likely will not get a chance at a second turkey hunt this upcoming spring, but I'll start with the calling practice immediately. If I'm understanding you correctly, walking+calling is better than sitting in one place with a decoy for Merriam's? Do you use the diaphragm as a locator as well? TIA
In my experience, walk and call untill you find a bird that responds. Sit down and call him in afterwards.

I'll use coyote howler and owl call early morning and late evening, but I do 99% of my locating with a mouth call once they are on the ground.
 

Greenchilecheeseburger

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Aug 12, 2020
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Location
New Mexico
Swamp - There are a lot of burn scars in the Gila that are worth checking out, like mentioned above. Spend some time on OnX to find burns and water since there is typically not much snow left in April. Don't get too focused on higher elevation stuff, they can be down lower in draws and riparian areas as well. As others also said I'd ditch the blind, unless you're going to use it to sleep under. Welcome to NM amigo.
 

Rob_orozco

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Feb 23, 2021
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Just saw this reply, I appreciate the input. I'll be ditching the tarp and following the water.

How did your hunt go? Me and a buddy are planning on backpacking into 16B near Mogollon this year for gobblers. I will definitely bring my fly rod as I’ve read there’s some decent trout fishing in those tributaries down there.


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dtrkyman

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Oct 2, 2014
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Start your scouting near water, and work out from there. A coyote howler is your friend. As stated not much of a snow line down there, however hunting close to the last elevations that had snow should have some fresh green for the birds!
 
OP
S
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How did your hunt go? Me and a buddy are planning on backpacking into 16B near Mogollon this year for gobblers. I will definitely bring my fly rod as I’ve read there’s some decent trout fishing in those tributaries down there.


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Didn't see your reply till just now - this hunt hasn't happened yet, looking at late April of this year. I will be sure to put up a detailed report here as soon as I'm back, though, and would like to hear about yours as well. Crossing my fingers that COVID doesn't throw a wrench in my plans.
 

Rob_orozco

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Feb 23, 2021
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Didn't see your reply till just now - this hunt hasn't happened yet, looking at late April of this year. I will be sure to put up a detailed report here as soon as I'm back, though, and would like to hear about yours as well. Crossing my fingers that COVID doesn't throw a wrench in my plans.

Yea I figured I originally read the date wrong... Our plan as of now is to go about 6 miles in. Good luck!


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OP
S
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Dec 29, 2020
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I wanted to post quick update to this thread, to avoid being one of those jackasses that asks a billion questions for a hunt, only to drop off the face of the earth without reporting back on the results.
Unfortunately, I am staying overseas for work for the next few months and I will miss this year's turkey season. COVID restrictions are making it impossible for me to come back to the states this spring, I guess the turkeys got lucky this year.
I feel double prepared for next year through everyone's help, though, and will report back as soon as it happens. If I don't draw for muleys this year, I'll most likely be back asking for fall turkey tactics here...and if I do draw, I'll be asking about muleys =)
I really appreciate everyone's time and how helpful this community is.
 
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