Wild Turkey Grand Slam: Part One by Tim Herald
Wild Turkey Grand Slam (Part One)
By: Tim Herald
Have you ever considered going after the wild turkey grand slam? If you are not familiar with the term, that means taking each of four subspecies of wild turkey that live in the U.S.: the Osceola, eastern, Rio Grande and Merriam’s. You can take this even further and add on a Gould’s (that makes a royal slam) and add an ocellated subspecies to those 5, and you have a world slam. To achieve any of the slams, you do not have to take all the birds in one year, there is no time limit.
In this piece, I will stick to discussing the grand slam. I have been very fortunate in my turkey hunting obsession to take 25 wild turkey grand slams. I have taken double single season grand slams, bow grand slams, muzzleloader shotgun grand slams, and many traditional shotgun grand slams over the years, and what I write here will simply be my opinions formed through much experience, but as in all turkey hunting, there are no absolutes.
The Osceola wild turkey lives only in Florida. When I started hunting them decades ago, only the birds from about Orlando south were considered true Osceolas. Now that line basically has been moved north to the FL state line, but I believe many of those birds in north Florida are hybrids with easterns.
Many hunters believe the Osceola to be the hardest of all the turkeys to kill. I think that highly pressured public land Osceolas are as tough as it gets, just like pressured eastern birds anywhere in in the Deep South, but I actually think lightly pressured Osceolas are about as easy to kill as any bird.
Talking lightly pressured Osceolas, I believe they are the most patternable of all the turkeys. They typically roost in about the same spot, and usually have a daily routine. They might roost, fly down and strut, and make a daily route to other strut and shady loafing zones (mid-day and afternoon, and end up back around their roost.
For a patient hunter that is willing to scout and do a bit of glassing, these birds are pretty easy to figure out and then you can put yourself in a good position to bag your bird. Generally, Osceolas aren’t the best subspecies to hunt by aggressive “run and gunning.” You are much better to make longer setups where you think they will be and wait them out.
Speaking of Osceola traits, I believe them to generally be the most aggressive of all the turkeys, so jake and strutting decoys often work very well. Osceola turkeys are definitely not afraid to fight, and quality decoys in the open pastures is often all you need if you have done your scouting and picked the right place to set up.
The most widely distributed of all the subspecies of turkey is the eastern. They inhabit every state east of the Mississippi River (except maybe Florida depending on who you talk to), and many of the states west of the Mississippi.
As I stated earlier, I believe easterns in the Deep south, especially those in the big hardwood swamp bottoms that have been highly pressured are as tough a turkey to hunt as you will find anywhere. I believe overall as a subspecies, easterns are the most challenging to hunt as well though I know many may disagree.
We entered the property and only walked about 400 yards down a two-track road that snaked through a big hardwood creek bottom and led to a series of fields. In the dark, we stuck a couple decoys in the road, found a gnarly tree we could setup in front of and waited.
Just as the sun was starting to lighten the morning sky, a thunderous gobble rang out from inside of 200 yards in front and to our left. We were in business!
A few minutes later, Lee made a couple of soft tree calls, and the gobbler answered, and we sat quietly. He gobbled quite a few more times on the roost, but we stayed mute. Eventually, we heard his heavy wing beats and knew he had flown down, so we made a few yelps and again he answered. Then all went silent.
We continued to call with no response, and we discussed what we thought was happening. We figured he had either shut up and gone to some hens that we heard in the distance, or he was coming to us silently. We decided to wait it out and see what happened.
Maybe ten minutes later, Lee whispered, “Here he comes.” Thirty yards beyond the decoys I saw the big gobbler emerge from the woods and charge straight into our decoys.
To see how this hunt concluded, click this link and watch the video for yourself. Now that is something you just don’t see every day!
In part 2 of this article, I will discuss hunting Rio Grande and Merriam’s wild turkeys that generally live in the western half of the country. They are great fun to hunt as well.
Suggested Turkey Gear
Like many hunters, I want the most lethal setup I can get to cleanly kill wild turkeys.
No matter if you are using a .410 or a 3.5” 12 gauge, there is nothing as lethal as TSS shot. It’s much heavier than lead, and you can shoot 8 and 9 shot for more density.
I shoot TSS through all my shotguns, and actually have a number of different guns setup. Each has a Trijicon sight for easy and precise aiming. My 12 gauge that is in the video has a Trijicon RMR Type 2 on it, and I have another with a Trijicon MRO on top. Both have made a world of difference in target acquisition and precision, especially at close yardage.