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The Grand Slam of Turkey Hunting

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The Grand Slam of Turkey Hunting

There are competitions designed to get hunters into the outdoors. There’s a “Grand Slam” of big game. A “Grand Slam” of hunting most species of domestic game. Within certain species, there are “Grand Slams” that require travel about the country to see new sights, meet new people and experience the great outdoors. One example is turkey hunting.

Taking an Eastern Wild Turkey, a Rio Grande Wild Turkey, a Merriam’s Wild turkey and an Osceola Wild Turkey is one of the six “Grand Slams” of Turkey hunting recognized by the National Wild Turkey Federation. There’s a World Slam, a Mexican Slam, a Canadian Slam, a U.S. Super Slam and a Royal Slam that each require taking various subspecies of the wild turkey. Getting hunters out into the wild is the purpose of each.

Wild turkey hunting is challenging. The Wild Turkey is illusive, very cautious and difficult to call except for during mating season. The Wild Turkey is constantly on guard as it is the natural prey for coyotes, bobcats, eagles and now, feral hogs are invading nests. They are a very wary animal.

Wild turkeys were once so plentiful in the United States that founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin contented that the Turkey should be the national symbol and not the much-venerated Bald Eagle. Few would argue that the majestic Bald Eagle is not the more handsome of the two, but the Wild Turkey populations at the time of the settling of this country made seeing them an everyday thing.

By the early 1900’s, the turkey population had been decimated by over hunting, habitat destruction and lack of wildlife regulation. The protection of the wild turkey in the United States is among the greatest wildlife preservation success stories. Trapping and relocating the species to areas more conducive for survival and procreation was a big success. An estimated seven million Wild Turkeys now inhabit the lower 48 states and are also found in Hawaii. They got to Hawaii like everything else-by boat-to the lower pacific island paradise. There are, however, no Wild Turkeys in Alaska.

Most states in the eastern one-half of the U.S. have Eastern Wild Turkeys, including Arkansas, where Wild Turkeys were relocated in 1952. They are found in abundance on Chaffee and many Greenwood are hunters enjoy the season which began April 10 and ran through this week, ending on April 25. This segment on the Grand Slam of Turkey hunting is a reminder to plan for next year. It’s all the excuse hunters need to head to the outdoors and plan trip or two to other states for some great hunting.

Last year, nearly twelve thousand Eastern Wild turkeys were taken state wide according to figures supplied by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, a slight increase from the previous year. By law, Wilder Turkeys must be checked with the AGFC just like deer. That way officials can monitor populations, breeding and migration patterns and either expand or contract the length of the season.

The Merriam Wild Turkey is a found on the plains of Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas. The Rio Grande Wild Turkey, as the name suggests, is a native of Texas. Hunters who are interested in taking a Rio Grande Wild Turkey might consider making a trip during turkey season to Texas for some great feral hg hunting as well. Texas leads the nation in feral hog hunting. They have more thoroughly refined the sport in Texas and Turkey hunting adds another dimension to the trip.

The Osceola Wild Turkey is found only in the peninsula of Florida and nowhere else in the world. There is a phenomenon in the works in Florida. The Osceola has migrated a bit north due to the development and urban sprawl of north central Florida (areas around Disney’s development has taken thousands of acres of Osceola Wild Turkey habitat). Real estate development has not slowed down there over the last forty years and the Osceola has slowly moved north. Meanwhile, the Eastern Wild Turkey that has populated the panhandle of north Florida and Georgia, has moved south. The two breeds have created a hybrid Turkey that officials there simply refer to as the “Florida Wild Turkey.” The so-called “intergrade line” in northern Florida has been the demarcation line between the breeds. Biological data suggests that the smaller and darker Osceola Wild Turkey-named for the famous Seminole Indian Chief-and the larger Eastern Wild Turkey have, in fact, proved that the Wild Turkeys do not read the game management literature that tells where their own territories are! Turkeys wander where they will and the newly created sub-species is only controversial in discussions of those pursuing the slam. Did the hunter actually take an Osceola or just add another Eastern Turkey to his or her list of turkeys taken in pursuit of their slam?

The Osceola Wild Turkey is the most difficult to pursue for several reasons. First, it does not respond well to calls after the morning hours. Second, it inhabits the Spanish moss covered swamps roosting in piney woods. They go where gators lurk and bears prowl and poisonous snakes are everywhere. The Osceola likes nesting too in cow pastures and can see you coming for a mile. To say the least, Florida hunts are livelier with all of those dangers present. Add to that the fact that very few opportunities exist to hunt any of Florida’s estimated 100,000 Osceola Wild Turkeys. There are tens of thousands of acres of public hunting lands in Florida, but much of that land does not have turkeys on it. Even there, permits are by drawing on those lands where turkeys can be found. Hunting on private lands is off-limits to strangers who aren’t using a guide of have a lease.

The season in Florida begins somewhat earlier as spring arrives in Florida a bit earlier. This year the season was March 18 through April 23. Florida hunters get to take the edge off of winter earlier than the rest of the nation.

Greenwood’s Patti and Harold Smith were invited to a hunting ranch by friends in the Florida peninsula near Lake City for Harold to complete his Grand Slam of Turkey hunting with the taking of an Osceola Wild Turkey. While there, Patti decided to take advantage of the opportunity to take an Osceola as well and begin Turkey hunting.

The hunting ranch where the Smith’s were hunting included the usual gators, bears and snakes and that all requires watching closely where you step. They had their decoys and calls and each succeeded in each taking an Osceola Wild Turkey.  They shared their photos with us for this segment.

 

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