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A Turkey Grand Slam in a Single Spring

Taking all four wild turkey subspecies in one season is a true bowhunting feat.

A Turkey Grand Slam in a Single Spring

(Photos submitted by the author)

A wild-turkey grand slam is a challenging feat, but if you put a plan together and execute it, it’s very doable and will be an experience you’ll never forget.

Each spring, from mid-March through May, I spend as many moments as possible in the turkey woods. I can’t hear enough booming gobbles, see enough strutting or watch too many sunrises. I’m a turkey-hunting fanatic!

I’m also a big dreamer — a goal-oriented bowhunter who devises wild schemes and then tries his best to put those schemes into action. In January 2023, I started plotting how to string together a Wild Turkey Grand Slam run with my bow in a single spring.

I’d completed one Grand Slam, but that feat was achieved over several years. I wanted to bowhunt all four subspecies of the wild turkey in four states in one spring. So, that’s precisely what I did.

Florida – Osceola

An invite from camo kingpin Sitka had me hunting the Sunshine State beginning March 20, 2023. I’d hunted Florida once before and hit Osceola paydirt while out with my good buddy and owner of Osceola Outfitters, William ‘Hoppy’ Kempfer. With only a day to hunt, Hoppy convinced me to tote his 20-gauge, and later that morning I had my first Osceola on the ground.

This hunt would be different. It was bow or bust, and being the only bowhunter in camp when I arrived at the Florida Outdoor Experience (FOE) lodge, I gathered bowhunting Osceola birds was outside the norm. My buddy, Justin Brouillard, explained on the ride from the airport to the lodge that FOE only does a few bowhunts for Osceola birds each spring.

Upon arrival, there was no time for greetings, unpacking, shooting my bow or grabbing a snack. I swapped my street clothes for my Sitka apparel in the lodge’s kitchen while FOE owner Captain Gray Drummond gave me the rundown.

“Sorry to rush you,” Gray said. “We need you in the woods every minute you can, and we want to start tonight.”

Minutes later, I rode shotgun with my guide, Captain Ron, down a rutty Florida two-track. The vegetation was dense on both sides of the road — swampy and buggy — and Ron gave me the evening briefing as we drove.

“I have a blind set on the edge of a field the birds have been using in the morning and evening, and we need to try and get to it,” Ron said. “I have a feeling birds will already be on the field, so we may end up doing something different.”

What ensued was for sure different. After parking the rig and walking half a mile, Ron skirted through the pines and palmettos. He planned to sneak to the edge of the field and glass. As it turned out, his assumption was spot on.

Jace Bauserman, Osceola turkey hero
Author Jace Bauserman began his Grand Slam quest by downing an Osceola that was drawn to decoys set up on an old two-track.

“They are already on the field,” Ron told me. “Let’s set the decoys on the two-track, get huddled in the cover and see if we can drag a tom off the field and down the two-track.”

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I loved his energy and positive attitude. 

As he spoke, I spied a lone turkey, which looked like a hen, walking across the road 250 yards away. Quickly, Ron jabbed the fakes in the ground, and I did my best to get as much thick cover to my back as possible while still being able to shoot to the two-track.

Ron huddled close and started working on his slate call. After a few minutes, I heard a bird walking on the road’s edge. The bird would walk and scratch, and I figured it to be the same hen I’d spied down the road earlier.

I was wrong. Seconds later, a pair of gobblers rushed in and started having their way with the Avian-X Jake. The shadows, cover and Sitka’s Optifade camo helped us disappear, and when the bigger longbeard’s head turned to face the jake decoy, I drew my bow in one fluid motion. The second tom busted me and retreated, but the first was looking for a fight. The SEVR-tipped Easton arrow splashed through the bird at a distance of eight yards. And, just like that, on the hunt’s first evening, I harvested my first Osceola with a bow without the aid of a ground blind.

I jumped into Ron’s arms. I get a little excited, but that’s who I am, and I will never apologize for it. This was a remarkable hunt, and I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

Nebraska – Rio Grande

For me, hunting Nebraska is like going home. My good buddy Terron Bauer and I have been chasing Nebraska longbeards together for eight years, and we’ve had some fantastic hunts.

As usual, the late-March weather was frigid. North winds blew, and ice pellets and frosty rain plagued our hunt. The Rios on the Bauer farm were in immense flocks, and where the hens went to feed, a string of toms and jakes followed.

Scouting was the key to our success. We pinpointed where the birds entered and exited a cut cornfield. With the frigid temps, grain was on the menu and our best recipe for success was to put our butts in a Primos Double Bull blind, not call too much and let the birds’ need to feed create a bowhunting-close encounter.

Jace Bauserman, Rio Grande turkey hero
For Stop 2 on his Grand Slam tour, Bauserman visited Nebraska in search of Rio Grandes. March can be a dismal month to hunt turkeys in the Midwest, with frigid temperatures and even snow. So, learning where the birds feed and remaining patient are keys to success. This big, beautiful Rio tom got too close to Bauserman’s Hoyt VTM 31, giving the author his second bird on the way to his Grand Slam.

That’s precisely what happened on the second morning of the hunt. Spring hadn’t popped in south-central Nebraska, and the flock of birds sounded like an army as they walked and scratched through the decaying leaves on the forest floor. A thundering gobble and then another told us the birds were getting close. Terron, peering out the back of the blind, looked at me and whispered, “They are right here, right behind the blind.”

He had hardly finished his sentence when a tom burst around the front of the blind and sprinted toward our jake imposter. A swift karate kick followed by another sent the jake decoy spinning. Seconds later, my Hoyt-powered Easton hit home. The second leg of my turkey tour was complete, and it was time to head home to Colorado to match wits with a hard-gobbling Merriam’s.

Colorado – Merriam’s

I have lots of private and public dirt near my home, and portions of both hold good turkey numbers. Still, we can get some hybrids in my area. Luckily, as he typically does, my good buddy and owner of Purgatorie Outfitters, Jay Waring, saved me a Ranching for Wildlife (RFW) tag.

The RFW season opens earlier than Colorado’s general turkey season, and having hunted the ranch for several years, I felt highly optimistic.

Jay was busy with work, but he gave me the run of the place and told me what the birds were doing based on his scouting.

On the morning of April 5, I toted a Double Bull and my decoys a mile across rugged canyon country to work around the birds’ roost and get into a good position to intercept them as they worked their way up the canyon.

Pre-dawn gobbling was less than in past years. Slipping out the back of my blind and using an old corral system for cover, I could glass the roost tree. I could only make out two toms and a passel of hens.

Jace Bauserman, Colorado Merriam's turkey hero
The beauty of a pure Merriam’s gobbler is hard to beat, and the landscapes in which the birds dwell are magnificent. Bauserman took his 2023 Merriam’s in Colorado, making good on a 35-yard shot.

The hens flew down in my direction, and the toms followed. Then, the canyon got quiet. An hour passed, and despite my sexiest hen talk, I couldn’t get a gobble or raise a yelp.

As the sun crawled above the canyon wall and the morning began to warm, I spied a lone hen walking toward my decoy setup. She remained quiet and was moving slowly, but she was coming. The next time I looked out the side of the blind, two toms and five more hens followed her.

Two of the hens came right into the decoys, got in the face of the Dave Smith Decoys hen and started squawking. The toms didn’t budge. They remained in strut outside the decoys, gobbling, spitting and drumming, trying desperately to get the pair of ladies to rejoin their venture up the canyon.

My Leupold rangefinder read 35 yards, and after dialing my Spot-Hogg Fast Eddie PM Triple Stack to the exact yardage, I drew and trusted my pin float while pushing, pulling and letting the release fire the bow. The shot was perfect. The white-tipped Merriam’s turkey had worn spurs and a big, ebony body. I was three-for-three, with the final and most challenging leg of my 2023 turkey tour still to come.

Virginia – Eastern

My buddy and Vice President of Quality Archery Designs, Kevin Fry, had been telling me for months that there were better places to bowhunt Eastern birds than the Blue Ridge Mountains. I didn’t care. I wanted to spend time with Kevin and his family and do something outside the norm. Digging out flat spots in the mountainside to set a ground blind while trying to call in a wary bird sounded perfect.

Kevin owns a small piece of property in the Blue Ridge, and a half-mile walk in the inky black darkness led us to a Double Bull.

Kevin was concerned about using decoys. He told me that mountain birds often see decoys and either tuck their tails and run the other way or skirt them. Still, I figured my triangle of death set that includes a posturing half-strut jake, posturing hen and a laydown hen might work its magic.

Things didn’t start as planned. We didn’t hear or see a bird until well after sunrise. Then, the hardwoods above our blind erupted with putts and heavy wingbeats. Yup, the birds were roosted directly over our blind.

Frustrated, Kevin and I let the woods calm down and got on the calls. A distant rumble in the timber told us another tom, one Kevin told me roosted several ridges over, was in earshot. His next gobble was closer, and at that moment, I realized I got exactly what I came to Virginia for — the sound of a hard-gobbling mountain bird closing the distance.

Jace Bauserman, Virginia Eastern turkey
The Eastern subspecies of the wild turkey was the fourth and final bird Bauserman downed in 2023, allowing him to complete the coveted Wild Turkey Grand Slam with bow and arrow, all in one spring — an incredible accomplishment!

We never saw that bird. We figured the gobbler was only 100 yards or so in the distance, but, suddenly, a pair of jakes rushed in on the decoys. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I sent an Easton through one of the jakes as he mounted the laydown hen.

Should I have waited for a tom? I don’t know or care. My Wild Turkey Grand Slam was complete. And if the remainder of the hunt (I had two tags) was an indication, I made the right decision.

We hunted multiple sections of the Blue Ridge and lower farm country. We heard toms — we saw toms — but not one ventured bowhunting-close.

Last spring was one I will forever cherish. I accomplished my goal, and along the way, I watched several friends and my sons take birds. It was a spring to remember, and if you’re entertaining the idea of a Wild Turkey Grand Slam run, I highly recommend you kickstart your planning and execute.




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