There are five subspecies of turkeys in the United States. One of them, the Gould’s, is primarily a Mexican resident but some have recently been reintroduced in southern Arizona. However, the “Grand Slam” is considered to be the Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, and the Rio Grande. Harvest them all and you achieve a turkey hunting milestone. But it is not easy. Here are some facts about each bird that will help you achieve your goal.
Eastern-Considered by most turkey hunters to be the wariest of them all. They are by nature more cautious and do not respond favorably to hunting pressure. They do have a wide range however so your options are many for where you go to hunt them. Iowa birds tend to be giants; a 25lb Eastern there wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. South Carolina has them in droves but they are smaller birds. So taking your Eastern may be more of a study in patience but you will get it done.
Osceola-This is often the last turkey hunters need to finish the Slam. The reason why is their limited range. They are only found in southern Florida in a population that fluctuates between 80,000 and 100,000 birds. A limited range plus a limited population equals limited opportunities. And you add in the swampy terrain they live in and that equals a hard bird to hunt. They are very similar to Easterns in many ways but are generally smaller in size and darker in color. These birds are wary so techniques used on Easterns apply here as well. Plus, watch out for snakes!
Merriam’s-This is a striking turkey that lives in striking country. Their traditional haunts are in the Rocky Mountains, the states of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. But they have been transplanted into other states, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Merriam’s were named after the first chief biologist of the U.S. Biological Survey, C. Hart Merriam. Terrain is an issue with harvest for these turkeys as well but many times it can be used to the hunter’s advantage. Spot and stalk methods work well as you can see the birds from a long distance, allowing maneuvering into position for a shot. Both the gobblers and hens are very vocal so an aggressive calling style works well.
Rio Grande-Every turkey can be difficult to deal with but the Rio Grande is easier than the others. They live in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas primarily and they have a large population, over one million birds. Open terrain with low trees tends to typify the lands they live in and they are very vocal in nature, much like the Merriam’s. They are less pressured as a whole and can be more susceptible to calling. Often, they can be seen running in big groups with several toms competing for that hot hen.
There is the lowdown on the turkeys you need to achieve the Slam. Then, on to the World Slam adding Gould’s and Ocellated. But that is another post, stay tuned!
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