Turkey Hunting in New Mexico: Gobblers and Mesas

May 14th 2024

New Mexico, a state celebrated for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, is home to a unique cast of turkey species that adds to the richness of its natural tapestry. In the shadows of mesas and across arid plains, turkey enthusiasts and wildlife admirers alike can witness the vibrant lives of two primary New Mexico turkey species that have made the Land of Enchantment their home—the Merriam's turkey and the Rio Grande turkey.

Merriam's Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo merriami)

A wild turkey

The high country of northern and central New Mexico echoes with the distinctive calls of the Merriam's turkey—a sound you’ll get to know if you go turkey hunting in New Mexico. Renowned for its striking appearance, this subspecies boasts a snowy white tail fan and iridescent feathers that shimmer in the mountain sunlight. 

One of the defining features of the Merriam's turkey is its adaptability to the coniferous forests and alpine meadows that characterize the elevated terrain. Spotting a Merriam's turkey is akin to discovering a hidden gem in the pine-covered slopes, as these birds blend seamlessly into their environment.

These turkeys, with their penchant for high-altitude habitats, are often found navigating the ponderosa pine and fir forests. Their habitat selection aligns with the varied landscapes that define northern and central New Mexico, offering those who go turkey hunting in New Mexico, as well as birdwatchers, an opportunity to witness the grace and beauty of Merriam's turkeys against the backdrop of mountain vistas.

Rio Grande Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia)

Rio Grande turkeys

Venture to the lower elevations, and the Rio Grande turkey takes center stage. With a more subdued color palette compared to its alpine cousin, this New Mexico turkey species thrives in the arid plains, river valleys, and cottonwood groves that line the Rio Grande and its tributaries. This species has demonstrated remarkable adaptability to different environments, making it a widespread presence in the state.

If you go turkey hunting in New Mexico, you’ll find that Rio Grande turkeys are often seen in groups, foraging in open areas or roosting in trees along riverbanks. Their social dynamics and distinctive vocalizations make them a fascinating subject for wildlife enthusiasts. Observing these turkeys against the backdrop of New Mexico's sunsets, with the iconic river winding through the landscape, creates a tableau of natural beauty.

The Dance of Hybrids

In regions where their habitats overlap, Merriam's and Rio Grande turkeys engage in a dance of natural hybridization. This phenomenon leads to a blend of characteristics, creating turkeys that embody the diverse ecotones of New Mexico. It's a testament to the dynamic nature of wildlife and the interconnectedness of ecosystems in the state.

The Natural Beauty of Turkey Hunting in New Mexico

A sprawling view of New Mexico’s natural landscapes

For hunters, New Mexico provides unique opportunities for turkey hunting. The state carefully manages hunting seasons to balance conservation efforts with the interests of outdoor enthusiasts. Turkey hunters can experience the challenge and excitement of pursuing these birds in a variety of terrains—from high mountain plateaus to river valleys.

Conservation and Appreciation

Conservation efforts by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are instrumental in ensuring the health of New Mexico turkey populations. These efforts, combined with responsible hunting practices and habitat protection, contribute to the continued presence of these remarkable birds in the state, ensuring that turkey hunting in New Mexico is a tradition that will continue for many years to come. 

An Adventure Worth Experiencing

A bowhunter preparing a shot

New Mexico's turkey species offer a captivating glimpse into the diversity of its landscapes. Whether you're an avid birdwatcher, a passionate hunter, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of wildlife, the turkeys of New Mexico enrich the natural heritage of this Southwestern gem. Gobblers and mesas—their dance under the expansive skies and their calls echoing through canyons—all contribute to the wild allure of turkey species in the Land of Enchantment.

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We hope this guide to turkey hunting in New Mexico gives you some inspiration as you plan your next hunting trip. Order custom bow strings and other aftermarket bow upgrades today, and explore the rest of our bow string blog for more fascinating content about hunting and archery.