A single trigger pull produces the ending of a long journey. The final bird falls, and the slam is complete. Months and years of planning and effort lead to the slam success you’ve been waiting for. But what are wild turkey slams? And how might an aspiring turkey hunter go after one? Here’s what you need to know to understand turkey slams.
As noted by the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Grand Slam is the most popular of the NWTF’s recognized slams. To achieve this slam, hunters must harvest and register one of each of the four most common subspecies. These are the eastern, Merriam’s, Osceola, and Rio Grande wild turkeys. Thousands of turkey hunters have completed the Grand Slam.
The Royal Slam is another popular adventure among North American turkey hunters. To complete it, hunters need to harvest and register a Grand Slam plus the Gould’s wild turkey subspecies. Some hunters might have the opportunity to hunt this subspecies in the Southwest; more of these exist in northwestern Mexico. Nearly 700 people have completed and officially registered this feat.
Those wishing to achieve the World Slam must secure the Royal Slam plus the ocellated. The latter species is only present in the Yucatan, which is in southern Mexico. This is a difficult hunt to reach and complete, but it’s necessary for finishing the second-most difficult slam of the primary slam categories.
U.S. Super Slam
The most difficult of the historically recognized slams, the U.S. Super Slam takes time and money to complete. To obtain this status, a hunter must harvest and register a turkey from all 49 states with turkey seasons. This includes Hawaii. Alaska does not have a huntable population or official season. Only 16 hunters are recognized by the NWTF as having completed this mountainous objective. Of those, only one hunter has completed it twice.
One individual who’s completed it is Jeff Budz. He makes a living at guiding turkey hunters and owns the Tag It Worldwide outfitting service. He guides Osceola hunts, as well as hunters seeking their slams. He’s taken more than 500 turkeys himself, and likely closer to 515. With that many birds down, he’s completed 116 Grand Slams, two World Slams, one Super Slam, and he’s 20 birds into his second Super Slam.
One of his top pieces of advice is hunting areas where numerous state lines meet. “When you go somewhere, and you’re hunting near a border with a three- to four-day trip, you better make some connections in bordering states,” Budz said. “Maybe don’t buy those licenses just yet but know what you need.”
Stephen Spurlock agrees. He co-founded Chasing 49 along with Keith Ott in 2017. Spurlock filmed his friend complete his U.S. Super Slam in 2020. Since then, these guys have continued telling slam stories. “There is not a right or wrong way to do a U.S. Slam,” Spurlock says. “There are a million different ways to do it. Some people will try to do 15 to 20 states in a spring. Others pursue four or five states per year.”
For those who wish to prolong the journey, consider taking it slower. Regardless, understand this—once it’s over, most don’t have the ability to chase it a second time. “It was the greatest and saddest moment I ever experienced,” Ott says. “It was years of dedication and devotion with unwavering effort that concluded in a single second with one trigger pull. With that trigger pull, I was able to find the highest of highs, but also the lowest of lows. I dedicated five years of my life to making that moment a reality. As soon as it was over, I realized it was a piece of my life I loved deeply, and I would never get that opportunity again.”
In addition to the above slams, there are others that are also popular. For example, people chase the Canadian Slam, which requires harvesting the eastern and Merriam’s in any province in Canada. Potential destinations include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, or Quebec. Another example is the Mexican Slam, which requires harvesting the Gould’s, ocellated, and Rio Grande in Mexico.
Popular slams aside, of which most have been around for a long time, some are just kicking off. One of these is the Calendar Slam. To complete it, a hunter must take one legal turkey during each month of the year. “I was the first and only person thus far to do a calendar slam,” Budz says. “I’ve shot a turkey in each month of the year.” In February, he went to South Texas. “There are only three counties in South Texas with a season in February,” he says. “March, April, and May are slam dunks. June is Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine. Out West, it opens from September to December, which is easy.”
“July and August are the hardest of the year,” Budz says. “Florida archery season starts in August. Every few years, it starts the last Saturday in July. I got a bird with a bow on July 31 and August 1.”
Other modern additions include weapons slams. Try a given slam with a specific weapon, including .410, 28-gauge, 20-gauge, 16-gauge, 12-gauge, 10-gauge, muzzleloader shot, musket, rifle, crossbow, compound bow, recurve, etc. “It’s unlimited. You can talk about different weapons, subspecies, etc.,” Budz says “That’s my goal. I’m working on the different weapons. I’m trying to make it hard on myself. Shooting left-handed. Shooting right-handed. Shooting a true double—two birds with one shot. Just keep plugging away and doing different slams.”
Securing Successful Slams
Looking at the variety of slams, this can seem a mountainous task too tall to climb or complete. That isn’t true, though. It’s possible. The names of the men and women who already have are living proof. “Just like eating an elephant, don’t get overwhelmed,” Budz says. “Take it one bite at a time—one bird at a time. Put everything on that.”
10 Tips for Slam Chasing
Those who choose to start checking off boxes and slams must do so with a vision. Of those who are successful, no two paths are identical. However, most express consistencies. Including:
- Put all state legalities, regulations, and requirements in an Excel spreadsheet.
- Complete most planning during the off-season, including buying licenses and tags.
- Swap hunts with people in other areas who would like to hunt your home base.
- Re-verify plans and regulations before the hunt.
- Write down landowner contact information.
- Ensure the landowners own the lands you think they do.
- Verify that contacted landowners have good turkey hunting opportunities.
- Contact biologists within target areas and inquire about turkey populations.
- Talk to people who drive the roads a lot. Those who log road miles see turkeys.
- Knock on doors and ask for permission.