The Ocellated Wild Turkey is the most unusual of the six subspecies of wild turkey. All of the male wild turkeys have a beard except the Ocellated, and all of the male wild turkey’s gobble with a similar gobble, except for the Ocellated – it has a unique gobble.
In 2010, I planned a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in hopes of harvesting an Ocellated turkey. This sub-species is only found in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. I had used Brad Faulk at Rio Sonora Outfitters to harvest my Gould’s and he had a link on his website to Arturo Malo, with Baja Hunting, who could help me harvest the Ocellated turkey. I planned this hunt with three things in mind. First, I was going to drive to Dallas, Texas and visit my sister and family. Second, I was going to fly to Campeche, Mexico and harvest an Ocellated turkey, and third, I was to complete my trip by revisiting Brackettville, Texas for a hunt, before returning home.
As planned, I drove to Dallas and spent Easter with my sister. It was a lot of fun since I got to hide Easter eggs for my niece and nephew; we had a great time. Then, I said goodbye to them and drove to San Antonio to catch my flight to Campeche, through Mexico City. When I arrived in Campeche (which had a tiny airport), Arturo Malo greeted me. We jumped in his vehicle and drove several hours to our camp in the jungle. There were six other hunters in the camp for the week, leaving me as the odd man out once again. The camp consisted of four screened tents, a screened dining fly, and a kitchen area where the meals were prepared. I shared a tent with Arturo.
The next morning, I was introduced to Tony, my guide for the week. He was a Mayan Indian who spoke some broken English. When I asked him if he had ever been to the United States, he said he had been to Indianapolis, Indiana for work, once, so I was glad we were able to communicate. After introductions, we set out to find (and harvest) a turkey. I asked Tony how I could tell the hens from the gobblers because these birds didn’t have a beard. He said that the gobblers roost by themselves, and the hens roosted together. He told me that he would locate the bird, shine his light on the bird, and tell me when to shoot the bird out of the tree. This was a totally new concept for me because it’s illegal to do that in Kentucky! But as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
I was successful in harvesting two birds over the next couple of days. The first bird was 11 pounds and 9 ounces, and both spurs were 1 5\8”. The second bird weighed 9 pounds and 10 ounces with a 1 3/8 & a 1 5/8 spur. Everyone harvested a turkey and several of the other hunters were also successful in killing the Coues deer, which is one of the smallest deer in the world. One of the hunters, Frank Zitz, was a taxidermist, so everyone sent their animals on to him to be mounted. In the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, there were many different animals that I had never seen before, including the Ocellated wild turkey, the Coues deer, and a strange 3-toed animal called a Tapir that looked like a cross between a bear, an elephant, and a pig! It was an amazing trip of a lifetime.
I returned to San Antonio, picked up my vehicle, and headed to Brackettville for the final leg of my journey. My plan, since I was already out west, was to go ahead and try for a Rio Grand Slam with my muzzle-loader, because I had already gotten an Eastern and a Merriam’s with one. If I was successful, that would only leave the Osceola (in Florida) for me to get a Grand Slam with a muzzle-loader shotgun. The ranch in Brackettville had changed quite a bit since I was there six years earlier. They had cleared a lot of mesquite and cacti, which created big fields. According to “Uncle Ted” (he watched over the ranch in the spring) the turkey numbers were down due to bad hatches two years in a row. But I was there to harvest a Rio Grand turkey with my muzzle-loader shotgun, and thankfully, I was successful. I bagged a 20-pound 1-ounce bird, with a 10 5/8-inch beard, and ¾ inch spurs. When I registered it with the National Wild Turkey Federation, they listed it as #9 in the world with a muzzle-loader.
I had completed what I set out to do, so it was time to go home to see Teresa and the boys. I had done it! I completed the World Slam on wild turkeys, got closer to completing the Grand Slam with a muzzle-loader, and I got to visit my sister. When I got home, my wife asked me: “what do you get for completing the World Slam?” I grinned and said: “Bragging” rights!”