Turkey Hunting Grand Slam: Every Turkey Hunters Dream
The Turkey Hunting Grand Slam: The Ultimate Quest Of Every Turkey Hunter
Every turkey hunters dream is to complete the single-season Grand Slam by harvesting at least one of each of the four subspecies of Wild Turkey in the U.S. These include the Osceola, Eastern, Rio Grande, and Merriam Turkeys. This is a guide to accomplishing the feat of the Grand Slam. We will walk you through learning about them, their habits, and where you can find them on a budget! First, we will begin with the most difficult mature gobbler to flop, the Osceola Subspecies.
Osceola Turkey: Swamp Gobbler Of South Florida
Osceola Turkey in Florida (Photo Credit: Bull Creek Outfitters)
The Swamp Gobbler or Osceola Turkey can only be found in South Florida. All turkeys below Ocala, St Augustine, and Cedar Key can be considered pure Osceola Turkeys. Their darker wings most commonly identify them. They have very faint and broken white bands on their wing feathers. Osceola turkeys are also smaller than their Eastern counterparts. They live in swamps and flood-prone areas and also have large spurs. These birds are limited to a small area which makes it difficult for people to get the ability to hunt them. Most land is private and is either leased or not huntable. However, you can find some top-notch guide services in south Florida to take you on your dream Osceola hunt. This will cost anywhere from 800-2500 and guides have a very high success rate.
If you want a cheaper option for getting a chance at an Osceola Turkey, there are some great public land opportunities in South Florida. Apply to one of the many quota hunts put on by the state on public land. Quota hunts open in early November and are the best hunting opportunities based upon the limitations. Apply online or through the mail in with the state of Florida. Any WMA south of that line will have turkeys. Along the St Johns River and the Tampa area are significant areas to target. After a failed attempt to be drawn for a turkey hunt, the WMA will award a preference point for the following year to increase your chances. There are also several WMAs that you do not need a quota to hunt, but they are usually crowded. Big Cypress WMA, Lochaloosa WMA, are open entirely and some open after the designated quota hunt. But the later in the season it gets, the less mature birds are still available. There are 167 WMAs in the state of Florida, but the northern part of the state has Easterns and Hybrids. Florida public land has plenty of opportunities if you are willing to put in the work to be successful.
The Habits of the Osceola are similar to any other turkey, but they are a lot less vocal. Especially on public land. They get “hened up” and get “fired up” depending on the time of year, weather, and breeding stage. Toms will sit on islands in the middle of swamps when its warm and won't leave making him difficult to hunt them. Osceola hunting is earlier than other states due to the short, sometimes nonexistent, winter in Florida. However, remember a turkey is a turkey, and they will be in fields and oak hammocks, as well as swamps, depending on pressure and weather.
Eastern Wild Turkey
Eastern Turkey (Photo Credit:1800GunsandAmmo)
The Eastern is by far the most abundant turkey subspecies in the United States. Ranging over the entire eastern United States from North Dakota to Texas, to Maine to North Florida and everything in between. There are plenty of opportunities in all of these states. Some of my favorite states to hunt them in is Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The state of Tennessee has an incredible turkey population and many hunting opportunities. Turkeys have been reintroduced to the state of Tennessee, and the community has exploded. The turkey limit is set at four birds, and the Wildlife Management Areas encompass a large portion of the state. Some area in this state has quota hunts which are great to beat the crowds and almost guarantee an opportunity at a bird. Some areas to concentrate on are South Cherokee, North Cherokee, North Cumberland, and Big South Fork WMAs. All have large concentrations of wild turkeys. The state of South Carolina also has a large Eastern Wild Turkey Population. The Francis Marion National Forrest is loaded with birds. You can get on one if not more birds a morning while hunting there. Hunting gobblers in the low country is an experience that everyone needs. The Mountain Hunt Unit and the Central Piedmont Hunt Unit are loaded up with birds as well. Plenty of public opportunities in this state. However, any state that has eastern wild turkeys has public land opportunities. Just do your research, scout, and I'm sure you can get it done in your state.
The Eastern lives in mountains, fields, pine forests, oak draws, swamps, and anywhere with trees in the eastern United States. This bird is a hard gobbling timid bird that has been proven to be weary during calling. They can come in silent of come in red hot. Every bird acts differently on every day so experience will come in handy when hunting Easterns. They are the largest of the birds weighing up to 22 lbs and have the loudest gobble that seems to carry on for miles. Be patient when working these thunder chickens, especially on public land. Late season call softly and quietly, and you will get your chance.
Rio Grande Turkey
Rio Grande Turkey (Photo Credit: Flickr)
The second most common subspecies of wild turkey in the United States is the Rio Grande Turkey. This bird ranges massively from Kansas to Texas then has a small range of rivers throughout the southwest as well. When targeting these turkeys, the best states are Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. All of these states have open over the counter tags which can be purchased by out of state hunters. When targeting Rios, hunt the mid or western portion of the state to get away from the Rio/Eastern hybrid Gobblers that blend in these areas. Rios, like other turkeys, need trees to roost in. Most of the trees in their habitat are short scrub oaks and are concentrated around creeks and natural land. Rios are very active birds, are very vocal. Locate with turkey calls, crow calls, hawk, eagle, or even coyote sounds. There are many public land opportunities to bag a Rio in all three of these states, but you need to concentrate your search near water. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has set up wildlife management areas which are a great place to target these birds. Many of the large reservoirs and rivers have plenty of trees, plenty of lands, and plenty of turkeys. However, be aware of late-season pressured birds and slow down and limit calling.
The state of Kansas has a large amount of WIHA or Walk-In Hunting Areas that are open to the public. The great thing about these patches of land is they are scattered, and there are a lot of them. The birds will move on and off these properties throughout the season giving hunters ample opportunities to bag a Rio. And then there is Texas, a fantastic place to bag a true Rio. Low scrub oaks and lots of birds. A general rule for Rios and all turkeys is to find trees, and you'll find birds. True Rios can be found all over western and central Texas. Public land opportunities are abundant in Texas, but you will have to fight the crowds. Rios are marked with cream colored tips on its tail feathers which can be noticed at a distance but not to be confused with the white of the Merriam.
Merriam Tuckey (Photo Credit: Legendary Whitetails)
The Merriam subspecies of Wild Turkey has fan tail feathers that have almost white tips. Giving the bird a very bright look to help it blend in with snow and rocks. The Merriam turkey is only found historically within the Rocky Mountain Range. Although they have been introduced into Oregon. They inhabit high rainfall and high snowfall areas and live in Ponderosa Pine regions. They range from New Mexico to the Dakotas in high elevation areas. The population is good, and there are plenty of opportunities to find these birds on public land, but the hardest part is getting to them.
The Northwest corner of Nebraska is usually the closest drive for people, and it shows. Lots of public land hunters head to this area making for crowded WMAs. However, there are plenty of guides to take you in this region, but you have to book your hunt early. The wide range of these birds allows for less crowded areas all over the Central Western US. Colorado has many over the counter tag areas to hunt primarily in the western range. Any area with Ponderosa Pines will have birds somewhere. In the winter, Merriams move down out of the high elevations to the valleys for the winter, then back up to high altitudes for the spring and summer. The most beautiful states to hunt Merriams are Montana and Wyoming, but some states are more difficult to draw tags in. The mountains in these states create breathtaking views and great habitat for these birds. Some great aspects about the Merriam are they will gobble at pretty much any sound, any time of day. Also in early season, they will be in massive groups of birds. I have seen groups up to 400 strong. Pick a state, do your research, and you won't have any issues finding a mature Merriam longbeard. The Black Hills of South Dakota is an excellent region for an out of state hunter to harvest a bird. Apply for tags well in advance of your trip. With over 1.3 million acres of land you are sure to come into contact with a turkey. Look for creek drainages and transition areas. Be sure to rtoost birds the night before as they gobble hard on the roost.
The goal to get a Grand Slam on wild turkeys is easier than ever today. Guided trips are more than available in every state. Public land and private unguided hunts are getting more and more difficult with more people hunting and less land available. However, it still can be done. There are still massive amounts of public land available for hunting all across the united states. Most people do not want to put in the time or energy to be successful on public land. It requires much research about the land and tags and even more walking. Remember, a turkey is a turkey no matter where he lives. Snoods are weary and have excellent eyesight. All turkeys need to survive are trees, water, and a food source. Find these three things, and you should find plenty of birds. Rios, Osceola, Merriam, and Eastern Wild Turkeys are all members of the wild turkey family and have similar habits. Refine your tactics and head out to bag your grand slam.
If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear about your turkey grand slam experiences. Send us any pictures you get this turkey season to be featured on our social media pages. We hope you will read this article to help jump-start your quest for the turkey grand slam of wild turkeys.