An Ocellated wild turkey in the wild.

Here’s your guide to hunting the Ocellated turkey.

Sometimes Ocellated turkey hunting gets confused with Osceola turkey hunting, and you can certainly see why based on the similarity of the words. While they are both North American birds, the Osceola turkey is found exclusively in the state of Florida, while the Ocellated turkey is almost exclusively found in Mexico and Central America. Although we should mention that despite the differences, they are just as fun to hunt.

While it’s not uncommon for hunters to find and target them, the best Ocellated turkey hunting happens south of the border. These great birds have a few things in common with their northern cousins, and a few things that you may not be aware of, making them a bit more of a challenge to hunt.

Sure, turkey hunters are going to have to travel and retain a guide to have a chance of bagging one of the world’s most beautiful game birds, but the rewards will surely outweigh the simple cost of time and expense, and here’s a simple guide.

Where To Find Ocellated Turkeys

However you look at it, the Ocellated turkey is still a wild game bird that is related to the other species of wild turkeys in North America. (if you didn’t know, Mexico is considered a part of North America) One of the differences in this species is that it exists almost exclusively in the Yucatán Peninsula, and in just a bit of Belize and Guatemala.

The Meleagris ocellata, (it’s scientific name) is the more ostentatious tropical cousin of the world’s wild turkey species, sometimes known as the peacock turkey. Their metallic feathers shimmer in a broad band of colors from electric blue to green, which grow more vivid on the wings around a bronze-orange and white tail feathers.

Habitat and Breeding

The ocellated turkey wanders the peninsula’s remaining forested areas as unseen as it can among the resoundingly thick foliage. It is said that the ancient Mayans revered these turkeys, considering them a powerful and valued bird for their iridescent feathers and also their leg spurs.

One of the greatest things that differentiates the Mexican ocellated from wild turkeys in the states is that they routinely have to escape from such deadly predators as the Jaguar, Puma, Jaguarundi, Margay, and the Ocelot. They also receive heavy hunting pressure from locals who target them for food. This is a big thing to remember when preparing to hunt the Ocellated turkey. They are wary birds, good camo and a ground blind is often a necessity to down one.

Similar to other wild turkeys that we know, the Ocellated turkey begins to breed in March with nesting occurring in the month of April. While it is also possible to book a fall hunt, the spring is the time to bag your bird. It’s worth noting that it’s the adult males that usually have the most vibrant colors, especially during the breeding season when many of their colors become more pronounced. If you’re looking for one to take to the taxidermist, it’s best to plan your hunting adventure for the peak times the birds are strutting.

Hunting the Ocellated Turkey

As with most turkey hunting, it is done by shotgun or by bowhunting from a blind. Male Ocellated turkeys aren’t known as gobblers since they make more of a “singing” sound. They also drum like a grouse sometimes in place of a gobble. Another unique twist is the Toms don’t have a beard. The hens also really don’t yelp, but only use soft purrs and clucks that aren’t always easy to distinguish.

While they can be called with a specific call, (sometimes electronically) local guides have by necessity found other methods to bag them. Many hunts are of the spot and stalk variety, locating birds before they locate you – with a good chance of spooking the bird – but many guides make their living by dedicated scouting to know exactly where the birds are, as close as possible, every day.

Once the roosting, feeding, and loafing locations are known, blinds are then set and clients have the choice of sitting in, or staying on their feet. A good guide will know which is the best at the time of your hunt.

Once In a Lifetime Hunt

These birds are smart, wary, and difficult to hunt under any conditions. As tough as they are to wait out, and tougher yet to stalk, your best bet is to take your favorite scattergun, but bowhunting is not out of the question.

It’s a variable thing for sure, but an ocellated turkey hunt can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 depending on the outfitter. Some guides may also have trophy fees, so it’s worth asking before you book.

I you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to hunt in a tropical location with guides that are extremely knowledgeable for a wild turkey that can be just as stubborn and tight lipped as the rest we know and love, a hunting trip for an Ocellated turkey may be perfect for you.

Please check out my book “The Hunter’s Way” from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube. Go to Rack Hub and use the coupon code Craiger for a new way to display those antler sheds!




The post Ocellated Turkey Hunting: How to Pursue North America's Most Unique Bird appeared first on Wide Open Spaces.

Full Story