Grand Slam Tips for Public Land Turkey Hunting
Have you ever thought of taking your turkey hunting Grand Slam on public land?
I think it was my late friend Dwain Bland who first came up with turkey hunting’s Grand Slam concept of the 3/4 Slam. Dwain claimed the distinction, anyway, in his marvelous book Turkey Hunter’s Digest, and he won’t draw a challenge from this corner.
Whoever did it really started something. It’s hard to find a turkey hunter today who doesn’t know about the Grand Slam, and eventually most folks start thinking about trying for one. Many hunters are content to do it over two or more seasons, while others don’t consider it a true Slam unless it happens in a single year.
We’re not opening that can of worms here. However you define it is your business. But if you want to try for a Grand Slam the hard way – without guides or outfitters, on public land – maybe these thoughts and tips can help.
The quarter not accounted for here is Florida’s Osceola subspecies. Tagging a public-land Osceola is tough. Much of the public hunting land in Osceola territory (the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula) is on a permit-draw system for turkeys. Further, public-land Osceolas are hunted hard, by good, dedicated turkey hunters. Combine that with the natural tendency of Osceolas to gobble less than other subspecies anyway, and the result is a capital C challenge.
It can be done; I once killed a public-land Osceola. Once. But I hunted them seven years, for a total of 33 days, to get that one bird. I’m not the best turkey hunter in the world, but I’m better than 1-for-33. Evidently not on public-land Osceolas, though.
Okay, that’s the bad news. For the other three subspecies, the outlook is much better. The continental U.S. has more than 170 million acres of National Forest, in every state save nine: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas and North Dakota. Most of these have state forests, WMAs and other public hunting opportunities. Smallish New Jersey, for example, has nearly a half-million acres of public land in the Pine Barrens alone. In short, there’s plenty of public access to the Eastern, Rio Grande and Merriam’s subspecies.
Editor's note: Hardcore turkey hunter Jim Spencer has some how-to tips for taking three of the four subspecies for your turkey hunting Grand Slam. My sidebar for getting the fourth, the Osceola down in Florida, follows his article. Please click through this photo gallery for all four. – Steve Hickoff