Grand Slam Hunting of Wild Turkeys

A hunter, or in particular a turkey hunter, will know what a grand slam is, but for those that are merely interested in the topic for those who are just starting out, here some tips on grand slams, what they are and what it means.

A grand slam in turkey hunting means that the hunter has to shoot four different turkeys, each from one of the four major subspecies in the United States. The four major subspecies are Rio Grande, Osceola, Merriam’s and Eastern. For a grand slam, the turkeys need to be hunted in spring and need to be fully grown toms that were called in and shot with either a shotgun or a bow. Even bigger than a grand slam is the scoring of a North American grand slam, where a Gould’s turkey is added to the list mentioned above.

Hunting is a passion, but some of the hunters out there have a lot of spare time and money, some do not. For the ones with enough time and money, a grand slam can be achieved in one spring, but for most hunters, that is not very realistic and the approach to scoring a grand slam is by taking good old time. To be able to make sure that a hunter catches the right subspecies, he first of all needs to know the differences between the subspecies of turkeys. There are subtle differences in coloration as well as a few other marks.

The first major subspecies is the Eastern turkey, the species that was first seen and hunted by the early settlers in America, the puritans. They are most common in the eastern half of the United States, as some might have guessed by their name. The turkey’s coverage extends as far southeastern as Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and some of the maritime provinces of Canada. This species can reach up to four feet in height and they recognizable by a chestnut brown coloring on the tail covert tips. There are anywhere around 5.2 million birds of the eastern subspecies in North America. Around 1871, this bird was also sometimes called forest turkey.

The second major subspecies is the Osceola, or often also-called the Florida turkey. It is only found on peninsulas in Florida and there are only around 90,000 Osceola birds in the United States. It was named after the Seminole chief Osceola and has not been known for as long as the other turkey species. The Osceola turkey is smaller than the Eastern turkey and also darker in color. Its wings are of very dark color and less of the white spotting is seen on this turkey in comparison to the other subspecies. The majority of the body feathers are of an iridescent color that resembles a green and purple coloring.

The Rio Grande, the third major subspecies, is most commonly found in the lands between Texas and Oklahoma, in Oregon, parts of California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas and as an introductory animal in Hawaii. There are just over 1 million birds of this subspecies found in their natural habitats, which are natively the central plain states. Their distinctive mark is the disproportional long legs. The feathers of this bird are also iridescent but take a green-copper sheen in their color spectrum. Another very distinctive mark is the tail tip feathers and lower back feathers, which are of a very light tan color.

Lastly, there are the Merriam’s subspecies. This subspecies can be found in the mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains, in parts of Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico. There exist currently around 340,000 birds in those areas altogether. This bird can also be recognized by its iridescent sheen of green and bronze colors and the white color of the tail and lower back feather tips.