The Rio Grande Wild Turkey - Subspecies

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The Rio Grande Wild Turkey - Subspecies

by Doug Howlett

Rio Grandes

Rio Gobblers
Photo by: Author
Rio Grandes are the second most populous subspecies with an estimated excess of 1 million birds stretching from Kansas to northern Mexico with established pockets of birds found as far north as the Dakotas, over through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and in California, Oregon and Washington. Rios also offers great hunting on the big island of Hawaii. Many hunters regard the Rio as one of the “easiest” subspecies to hunt.

Because of the typically warm climate the bird lives in, Rios are similar in size to Osceolas, reaching close to 4 feet at maturity, but with disproportionately long legs. They are paler in color than the Osceola Wild Turkey or Eastern Wild Turkey and the tips of their tail feathers and the tail coverts are more of a creamy buff or tan color than the dark brown of the more eastern subspecies.

Rios tend toward more arid, open terrain than their eastern cousins and are also more gregarious, hanging out in larger flocks throughout the year. It is not uncommon to spot as many as 30 to 50 birds roosting together, even in the spring, and in flocks of hundreds in the winter.      

Rios tend to roost in the same traditional spots year-in and year-out, frequently choosing the tallest trees along a creek bed or drainage. For that reason, you never want to hunt right off the roost, lest you risk spooking an entire flock from the area and ruining the hunting in that place for potentially years to come. Rather, set up at a distance from traditional roost sites and work birds as they begin to split away from the flock.

Rios also tend to be more vocal, both on the roost and upon hitting the ground, so hunters should go prepared to call more aggressively. As already mentioned, Rios are also often considered one of the easier subspecies to hunt, but don’t let that fool you, as they are still wary like any turkey and can shut you down in a heartbeat.

Check It Out: Texas—The land is vast and so is the Rio’s range. While most of the best hunting is on privately leased ground, outfitted hunts are reasonable and worth the money for getting on this western-style hot gobbling action.

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