I have been turkey hunting for 42 years. That’s a long time. I wasn’t a very successful hunter in the early years for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t a very good hunter! I didn’t know what I was doing. Second, there weren’t very many turkeys to hunt. The only place I was able to hunt was Land Between the Lakes (LBL). Then, in 1984, I went on a road trip with some friends to Van Buren, Missouri, on the Current River. I harvested my very first turkey there. The bird weighed 16.5lbs, had a 9” beard, and ¾” spurs. Earlier this month I posted a story on that experience. I learned more about turkey hunting in the days I spent turkey hunting with my friend Jack Canady, than I all the rest of my turkey hunting career up to that point. I killed my first Kentucky turkey in 1986 at LBL, and the next 4 out of 5 also at LBL. As the turkey population increased in Kentucky, and more counties were opened for hunting, I started hunting turkeys on leased properties with groups of friends, and that increased my success rate tremendously.From 1993 to 2003, I harvested at least one turkey each year, and some years I had gone out of state to Missouri or Tennessee and ended up with three birds. All of the turkeys that I had harvested up to this point had been the Eastern Wild Turkey.
One of the things on my bucket list was to achieve the “Grand Slam,” which is harvesting all of the sub-species of turkeys in the United States. This included the Eastern, the Osceola, the Rio Grande, and the Merriam’s. I planned the hunts and bought the proper licenses and tags, and in the spring of 2004, I set off on my quest. First, I went to Florida, where I had booked a hunt with Mike Morgan (my brother Rob went with me). After harvesting a turkey in Florida, I drove to Brackettville, Texas and had a do-it-yourself hunt on a 9,000-acre ranch. I harvested four Rio’s in a day and a half (this was turkey heaven). Since I had done so well in Brackettville and had some extra time, I called my sister, who lived in Dallas, and stopped to visit her family for a couple of days.
Then, I was off to Buffalo Gap, South Dakota for a Merriam’s turkey on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with Jesse Trueblood. George Wright, our Turkey Biologist, recommended them to me. The next morning, I successfully harvested a nice adult Merriam’s turkey, but when I shot it, I shot off half of his beard (I was feeling sick about that). Later that day I redeemed myself by shooting another two-year-old bird, but this time I didn’t shoot off his beard.
The next morning, which was Easter Sunday, I drove back home to Paducah. It was only an 18-hour drive, which was no problem, since I was motivated to complete my Grand Slam by taking one in Kentucky. Thankfully, I was able to harvest two birds in Crittenden County and finish up my Slam. I had harvested 9 birds in a very short time span. I traveled through 14 different states and no telling how many miles – what an adventure! I enjoyed meeting a lot of new friends, visiting my sister, and seeing different parts of the country. Best of all, I got to mark Grand Slam off my bucket list. I was 48 years old when I completed my Grand Slam. What are you waiting for? Get to work on your bucket list!