Trees hint at growing back their leaves. The snow melts, runs down the hills, and fills the rivers. Long grey days that have frequented our forecasts are replaced by days that alternate between downpours and clear blue skies. For many, the spring brings cheery moods. Sunshine, flowers, warmer weather- it is a season of happiness. But for the hunter, spring means only one thing: turkey season. Turkey hunting is not a hobby, activity, or a sport; it is a purely religious experience that can only be understood by those who subscribe to its beliefs, and those who do take it very, very seriously. From practicing their turkey calls, to reading about hunting tactics, turkey hunters more time into turkey hunting than they do in the woods hunting turkeys. So, at the end of the season, turkey hunters want to have something to brag about. They tell their friends about the birds they killed this season: how many there were, how much they weighed, the length of their beards, the spurs. People will compare birds, arguing that one may have a longer beard, but this bird had 2-inch spurs. This bird weighed 20 pounds, but I killed 2 that day. A few hunters can scoff at these conversations, and remind their peers that they’ve already got a Grand Slam. A Grand Slam in turkey hunting is achieved when a hunter harvests a turkey of every American turkey species: Eastern-Osceola, Merriam’s, and Rio Grande- all in one season. Achieving this feat earns you a lifetime of respect in turkey hunting circles, costs you considerable time and money, and requires luck, a great guide, or turkey hunting expertise. Many hunters spend a lifetime chasing after the Grand Slam, and it is truly an outstanding achievement for an outdoorsman. If you’re attempting to go after The Grand Slam, here’s some tips to help you out.
Before you go into this, you need to do your research. You will be doing a lot of traveling, depending on where you live, and those costs will add up quick. If you have a full time job, you’ll probably have to either take off work or hire a guide (more money) to have time to get all the species. If you don’t have a guide, you’ll have to invest the time into completing your Grand Slam on public land, but keep in mind that killing turkeys on public land can be nearly impossible. You’ll also need to be aware of each state’s turkey hunting season, as many of them are different. You need to plan long in advance, especially if you’re booking guides. We recommend hunting the turkeys in descending level of difficulty. This will help you avoid getting to your last bird and frustratingly being unable to complete your Grand Slam. If you’re a turkey hunter, odds are you’ll already have harvested at least one of these, so you’ll probably only need to kill 3.
The Osceola is widely regarded to be the hardest of the 4 North American Turkey species to kill. This is mainly due to 2 reasons. First, the turkeys are only found in a small area of the Florida Peninsula. With such a limited range, they have a much lower population than any other species. There are only about 80,000 Osceola Turkeys in the world. And with such a small population of birds, there comes a huge amount of competition. Osceola Turkeys are most commonly killed on private land because 1) a lot of their population range is on private land and 2) the birds on public land get a ton of pressure. The public land Osceola turkeys are some of the most pressured, educated animals in the country. They can hear a bad call and spot a crappy decoy from a mile away. So, if you’re able to afford a guide, I highly recommend spending the money on harvesting an Osceola Turkey. You will not regret it. To find the best guides, checkout our Top 3 Osceola Turkey Hunting Guides.
The next bird to go after is the Eastern. Luckily, most turkey hunters live in the Eastern’s region, so they’ll have already harvested one of these birds. That’s a huge advantage, as killing an Eastern Turkey is almost as hard as killing an Osceola. The Eastern Turkeys have a huge range, from Maine to Florida up North to Michigan, and a massive population of nearly 5 million birds. But, most of these birds happen to be in states like Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia where there are large numbers of turkey hunters. The pressure Eastern Turkeys gets makes these some of the smartest birds in North America. So, again, the best case scenario will be for you to find a guide to help you harvest an Eastern Turkey. But you can also do it on public land. If you do decide on the public land route, practice your calling as much as you can. Our recommended location for public land Eastern Turkey Hunting is Ohio. The state sells over the counter turkey tags, and has a population of 200,000 birds. In 2016, hunters put a dent in that population by harvesting 17,500 birds.
Merriam’s Turkeys, like the Osceola, are a fairly rare bird. There are only about 300,000 of these in the country. But their lack of numbers isn’t what makes them hard to kill, it’s where they live. The Merriams Turkey lives in the rough and tough Rocky Mountains- inside canyons, high on mountains, and in the middle of nowhere. So, hiring one of our Top 5 Merriam’s Turkey Hunting Guides would give you a big leg up on the competition. But if you decide to hunt them on public land, you’ll have a good chance, if you’re willing to put the work in for it. Just be sure to pack your hiking boots, and venture far off the trails and access points. Our favorite states to target Merriam’s Turkeys are Wyoming and Colorado, and they both have plenty of public land for hunting.
To complete your slam, you’ll need to harvest a Rio Grande Turkey. Luckily for you there are about 1,000,000 wild Rio Grande Turkeys in the country, and many consider them to be the easiest of the 4 to kill. They’re found in Texas up north to Utah, and their range extends to Oregon and New Mexico. West Texas is our favorite place to chase after Rios, and we’ve got plenty of guides who will take you out. Checkout our Top 5 Rio Grande Turkey Hunting Guides for more info, and you’ll have your Grand Slam completed.
Turkey Hunting: A Grand Slam Season
If you’ve decided to go for the coveted Grand Slam, you now know you’ve got your work cut out for you. But if you do your research (or hire some good guides), you’ll be just fine. Just get out there and start gobbling! If you found this article to be helpful for planning your Grand Slam turkey hunting trips, let us know in the comments below. And share it with your turkey hunting buddies!