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Turkey Slam

The turkey world slam took OL's Editor-in-Chief around the world. Check out the photos as Andrew McKean chases gobblers from Florida to Hawaii.
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Top Rangefinders

Today's rangefinders represent a substantial investment, but you get a lot for your money. We tested six of the most feature-packed units to see which are most fieldworthy.
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Deer Survey Results

We wanted to see how OL readers viewed deer hunting so we could start answering questions about how to manage America's favorite game animal. Here's what you had to say.
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Culling the Herd

Before you applaud or admonish a deer cull, it’s important to first know how these things actually work.
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May 9, 2008

Top Picks

  • While most hunters spend their spring weekends waiting for turkey season, Aaron Milliken spends hour after hour studying Google Earth.

  • Anyone who’s come across one knows what Fred Bear meant a half century ago when he said that the thrill of tangling with a grizzly bear cleanses the soul.

  • Check out the most interesting new rifles, shotguns, and handguns from the 2014 SHOT Show.

  • Fire is your best friend in the wild. That's why you need a quality ferrocerium fire starter, or spark rod, to back up a lighter or matches.

  • April 21, 2008

    Croaked: Roadkill is 93% Amphibian - 2

    When you think about roadkill, probably the first animal that comes to mind is the whitetail deer, right? It’s certainly the most visible to many driving Americans, and it’s the animal those of us in the nation’s heartland are most fearful of engaging with our car’s front bumper.

    After deer, depending on the part of country you inhabit, the next critters you may consider as popular roadside attractions are the opossum or armadillo, those often-squashed fatalities of both Interstate and backroad.


    But a 16-month scientific study performed by researchers at Purdue University in Indiana found that the most numerous victims of Firestones and Michelins are not slow-moving or headlight-mesmerized mammals—not by a long shot. Rather surprisingly, appearing atop the roadkill carte du jour by a wide, 93-percent margin are amphibians.

    The study findings are published in the most recent issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

    Collecting data from four different Hoosier roadways, the researchers found that amphibians comprised 10,515 of the total body count. The most common species was the bullfrog, with 1,671 killed. Coming in a distant fourth—trailing the green frog (172), tiger salamander (142) and American toad (111)--was the Virginia (common) opossum at a mere 79.

    Rounding out our Outdoor Newshound “Roadkill Top Ten” is the leopard frog at 74; raccoon, 43; deer mouse, 39; cottontail rabbit, 37; chimney swift, 36 and garter snake at 35.

    Only four whitetail were among the Indiana blacktop victims, placing venison significantly behind frog legs on the carrion buffet.

    It should be noted that all the study areas in the Boilermaker research project were near or adjacent to wetlands, which to some degree helps explain the abundance of bullfrogs.

    Researchers also noted that due to “carcass degradation” (which, in layman’s terms means flat, moldy and chewed on by crows and buzzards), many of the animals were unidentifiable.

    Bon appetite! [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 21, 2008

    JR's Random Outdoor Quote - 0

    “A wild bear chase, didst ever see?
    Then hast thou lived in vain.
    Thy richest bump of glorious glee,
    Lies desert in thy brain.

    When first my father settled here,
    ‘Twas then a frontier line:
    The panther’s scream, filled night with fear
    And bears preyed on the swine.

    But wo for Bruin’s short-lived fun,
    When rose the squealing cry;
    Now man and horse, with dog and gun,
    For vengeance at him fly.”

    -Abraham Lincoln
    The Bear Hunt (excerpt), 1846 [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 20, 2008

    Sound Advice On Sighting-In - 2

    I was at my gun club earlier today putting a new rifle through the paces—a Remington 798 Safari chambered in what is perhaps the most romantic sporting cartridge of all time, the .375 H&H.

    I had done a lot of prep work on the rifle before heading to the range, mounting the scope bases and scope, bore sighting the rifle, checking all the various screws and fasteners, giving the gun a thorough cleaning (it is amazing how dirty a new gun can be), assembling the ammo and so forth.

    This particular rifle is destined for at least one, and possibly two, hunts in the near future. First off is a bear hunt in northern Alberta with an outfitter who guides in an area with some ridiculously large bears. I’ve been in a bit of a bear drought of late. A week of spot-and-stalk hunting in B.C. two springs ago yielded nothing and another spot and stalk hunt I had scheduled for Montana last year fell through at the eleventh hour. Likewise, a bear tag I had on me during a hunt last fall in Newfoundland went unpunched. But I’m hopeful this hunt will change my luck. I’ve spoken with a number of folks who have hunted with this outfitter and all have had good things to say.

    The other hunt is in Africa in June and I’m very tempted to bring along the Remington as my “light” rifle for plains game.

    The two loads I put through the rifle today were both from Remington, a 270-grain softpoint and a 300-grain Swift A-Frame. My inclination is to use the 270-grain bullets for the bears, as they pack more than enough oomph to handle bruins.

    I was shooting from the comfort of a Caldwell Lead Sled and was starting to get some good three-shot groups. One of my fellow club members came up to me to chat about the rifle and asked about what kind of hunting I planned to do. I told him about the bear hunt and he agreed that the .375 H&H is about the best all-around cartridge one can bring on any hunt for big game.

    “There’s just so much good factory ammo available for it and you can buy it anywhere,” he said.

    Very true that. It is a comfort to hunt with a cartridge that you know you can purchase ammo for no matter if you’re in Gnome, Nogales or Namibia.

    He also suggested that after I was done shooting off the Lead Sled to shoot off some plain sand bags with my hands positioned as they would be in a normal field shot. “Changes the zero you know when you grip the rifle with both hands,” he said. Again, very true. I had planned to do that anyway, as well as do a bit of shooting from regular, off-the-bench, field positions, but his advice was well received nonetheless.

    Most of my three-shoot groups ended up looking like the ones here and my last shot of the day, taken from a sitting position at 100 yards, was dead-on in the black square. Looks like the rifle is ready to hunt.

    —John Snow

    375groupcrop [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 18, 2008

    The Weekend Bite - 0

    By Ric Burnley


    Lake Trout/Salmon—“The ice is out!” announced Luke Haines at Fish 307 ( in Lake George, New York, “It’s about time!” Soon after the water turned wet anglers started pulling out big lake trout and salmon. Folks fishing from shore are using medium shiners under a bobber or on the bottom to fool these fish while boat anglers are trolling Mooselook Wobblers in orange-and-black dot or Yozuri Pin Minnows in silver and blue. The fish are all over the water column, so Haines recommends fishing a variety of baits at a variety of depths. Both bank and boat anglers are concentrating on the creek mouths where the bait is schooled up. So far this season, the biggest salmon reported was 23 inches and the biggest lakie pushed 10 pounds. “Fishing around the spring mouths will be the best bet for the next few weeks,” he said.Lakeblueridgespringsmal


    Bluecats—South Carolina fishing has been heating up along with the weather reports Lynn Myers at Rivers Country Store in Santee Cooper (803-854-2965). “Our lake was down low, but the water levels are back up,” he said. Largemouth bass are engulfing plastic lizards and worms. “The bass are post spawn,” Lynn said, “so they’re out in the deeper areas of the lake.”  Catfishing has been excellent. Anglers are encountering big felines pushing 50 pounds in the lower reaches of Lake Marion. In fact, Myer’s bait man, Richard Landry caught two 30-pound cats and a 48-pounder while fishing from shore at the Rocks. “They’ve moved out into the deeper water and are hanging around structure,” Lynn said. He suggests anglers use live herring or cut chunks of fresh. “If you’re lucky you might get a double whammy and pick up a striped bass while fishing for catfish,” Myers said.   


    Brown Trout—“Worst flood in the history of the dams,” reports Brian Harris of White River Guides ( in Arkansas, “but the fishing is not terrible.”  Brian says that the best way to fish the surging river is by boat. “This is a great time to fish streamers for big browns,” he says. According to Harris, the fish are hiding close to the bank and only coming out of the eddy to gulp up a bait. “There is still some caddis fly activity, too.” he says. San Juan worms and egg patterns are another favorite of brown trout. Once the water recedes in early May, Harris expects the fish to be big and hungry. “Fish feed heavily during periods of high water,” he says, “so when the level goes down you have a lot of fat healthy fish.” Lower water will spark the sulfur may fly hatches and he’ll switch to pheasant tails and yellow mayfly presentations. “Once this is all over the fishing will be as good as it can be,” he says. 


    Largemouth Bass—From Akron, Ohio, Marty Salchak, resident bass pro at Land Big Fish ( recommends anglers fish Portage and Mosquito Lake this time of year. In Portage, the bass are hugging the shoreline. Marty is coaxing them out with a 4-inch Husky Jerk. In Mosquito Lake, Marty’s finding slab crappie with 1-inch tube jigs on a 1/64-ounce jighead. “The crappie are everywhere,” he says. Currently the water temperature is 52 degrees in the lakes, but Marty expect the action to heat up when the water hits the mid fifties. Then he’ll switch over to spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits. 


    Salmon/Trout—“I was just getting ready to call you with a report,” Steve Smith said excitedly. Oregon fishing is starting to heat up and Smith wanted to get the word out. “Chinook salmon fishing has been excellent in the Columbia River,” he said. Smith’s using bait-wrapped Quickfish and fishing between Longview and Bonneville. The magic depth has been 10 to 20 feet. Whole herring has been outperforming plug cut baits for anglers trolling at slack tide. He added that steelhead fishing has been pretty good in the Clackamas River. Sandshrimp and eggs have been producing the best catches. “Trout fishing has been improving daily on the Deschutes,” Smith added. He suggests using large stone fly patterns and small midges. Smith had just returned from Reno, Nevada where he fished Pyramid Lake. “It’s a neat fishery,” he said, “in the middle of the desert in the middle of a lake that is the last of an ancient inland sea.” This strange lake is filled with 18 to 22 inch Lahontan cutthroat trout. To fish the lake, wade out knee deep and cast a wooly bugger or muddler minnow. To get the fish really fired up, tie a small fly about 20 inches above a larger fly. “These fish are not particularly bright,” he says, “but the place is magically gorgeous.”    [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 18, 2008

    Shed-Hunting Know-How - 2

    If you haven't been out looking for shed antlers you are missing out on one of the best springtime activities, bar none! Why? First of all, the reward is a nice addition to your trophy collection especially if you happen across a nice antler or even a matched pair. Finding shed antlers gives you insight on where bucks winter and what a particular buck scores, plus if you find successive years off the same buck you can track antler growth and maturity patterns. While you're tromping through the woods, especially before the major spring green-up, look for beaten-down paths, rub lines and scrape lines. These pathways often glow without foliage to camouflage them.

    Bbz1Here are some tips. First, bring along a binocular and glass for sheds. Look across fields and through woodlands for antler tips, curving objects and shiny surfaces. I spot more than 25 percent of my antlers by glassing. Next, get up high. I'll often get on a bluff or on top of my truck to look across fields for antlers. My favorite way to look for sheds is on horseback. The high vantage point allows me to peer into grass from more than six feet up in the air. You can't do that on a four-wheeler. My horse also saves me wear and tear on my feet and weaves in and out of brushy tight spots four-wheelers can't access either. 

    Bbz2 Finally, make your trip a family event. Since my kids were babies I've toted them in backpacks, on my shoulders and horseback through the woods looking for sheds, scouting for deer and checking out turkey hotspots. Cole, my 10-year-old son and I just returned from next door in Montana where we hunted sheds while scouting for whitetail and mule deer. The trip included an overnight campout and a variety of competitions including first antler found, most antlers found, largest single shed and largest matched pair. The scouting was valuable and the memories are priceless. Now get out there!

    —Mark Kayser [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 18, 2008

    10 Reasons Men Prefer Guns Over Women - 8

    I’m probably going to go to hell for this, or at least end up sleeping on the couch for the foreseeable future, but this list, which I got from a friend, was too good not to post.

    Here’s my question to you: Is it worth trying the “don’t shoot the messenger” defense with my spouse?

    The Ten Reasons Men Prefer Guns Over Women:

    10. You can trade an old .44 for a new .22.

    9. You can keep one gun at home and have another for when you're on the road.

    8. If you admire a friend's gun and tell him so, he will probably let you try it out a few times.

    7. Your primary gun doesn't mind if you keep another gun for a backup.

    6. Your gun will stay with you even if you run out of ammo.

    5. A gun doesn't take up a lot of closet space.

    4. Guns function normally every day of the month.

    3. A gun doesn't ask, 'Do these new grips make me look fat?'

    2. A gun doesn't mind if you go to sleep when you’re done. 

    1. You can buy a silencer for a gun.

    —John Snow [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 17, 2008

    Golf Ball Diver Smuggled Finned Water Hazards - 0

    A Texas contractor pleaded guilty to illegally planting non-native grass carp in golf course lakes and ponds to make it easier to find and retrieve golf balls.

    You might say it proves that when it comes to bottom-feeders, it takes one to know one.


    William Lamar Stoner, whose business is removing balls from the lakes and ponds located at golf courses around Texas, was charged with misdemeanor importation of harmful fish without a permit.

    Acting on a tip from an Arkansas fish farmer, federal authorities stopped Stoner in Texarkana and arrested him with what they said was a load of 50 unsterilized Asian grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), an invasive species known for its voracious appetite for marine vegetation growing on lake bottoms.

    When uncontrolled, the Asian carp are widely known among fisheries biologists for the adverse effect they can have on an aquatic ecosystem. As a result, many states, including Texas, allow the importation of only sterile carp and require a special Parks and Wildlife Department permit to do so.

    Because of Stoner’s illegal fish-farming efforts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists were deployed to round up grass carp at five different water hazards at the Quail Creek Country Club in San Marcos, Texas. Fisheries managers were concerned that a flood on the San Marcos River would allow the fish to escape the golf course water hazards and threaten native vegetation, including endangered Texas wild rice.

    Under terms of his plea agreement, Stoner will receive three years probation and a $2,000 fine and must pay $3,186.56 in restitution to Texas Parks and Wildlife and $5,000 in community restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Native Plant Conservation Initiative, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble. He could have received up to five years in federal prison and fines up to $20,000.

    “We don’t get a whole lot of grass carp cases,” Noble told the Austin American Statesman in bona-fide understatement. “I tried to find a sentence that would impress upon Stoner and the public that it’s a serious crime and there will be serious financial consequences. But I don’t think it’s necessary that Stoner be incarcerated for his offenses.” [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 17, 2008

    Turkey Slam Day 8: Some Grand Slam conclusions - 4


    I’m back home in Montana, bone-tired from hosting Outdoor Life’s Turkey Grand Slam Adventure. But even from this distance of a couple of days, the trip was an epic journey, and despite leaving one of the four gobblers in the field, it was a great success.

    I brought home mosquito bites from Florida, red dust from Oklahoma and a healthy respect for turkeys everywhere. Here are a few random thoughts to chew on if you ever consider pursuing a turkey Slam:

    • Take the bird in hand: It won’t surprise anyone who followed our journey on The Strut Zone that we all regretted letting a mature Osceola gobbler pass while we waited for a trophy tom. I won’t do that again, and neither should you. If you’re on a compressed schedule, take any mature turkey that you can, then move on. You don’t have enough time to be selective.

    • Take ‘em as they come: Mostly because we were filming our hunt for video, we passed gobblers that didn’t “act right” for the camera while we waited for the classic called-in-strutting shot. That’s a luxury you can indulge when you have several days at each destination. Our abbreviated schedule dictated that we kill gobblers any way we could. So while we waited for the photogenic approach in Florida, by the time we got to Oklahoma, we killed mature gobblers when they came in range, no matter how they acted.

    • Learn to recognize differences in subspecies: Most turkey hunters know that Osceola’s have longer legs, but they also have deceptively long beards. The beards start higher on their breasts than the other subspecies, and because those legs are so long, mature gobblers often have beards that look shorter than they really are. Even mature Rio Grande toms have an abbreviated gobble. We made the mistake of assuming that one short-stopped gobble was from a jake when it was actually a longbeard. And shoot any Merriam’s with visible spurs. Our hunter, Shawn White, shot one of the most remarkable Merriam’s I’ve seen die, a gobbler with 1-1/8-inch spurs. It’s rare to find a Merriam’s with spurs better than an inch. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 17, 2008

    A Boy And His Buck - 5

    While at the Ohio Deer and Turkey Expo a particularly wide-racked, heavy-antlered whitetail caught my eye adjacent to my booth site. It wasn’t long before 11-year-old Matt Seibold came by and within minutes he took claim to the big buck I had been admiring.

    Here’s his story in his words:

    My name is Matt Seibold.I am an 11-year-old from South Vienna, Ohio. November 17, 2007 was the first day of our youth hunting season in Ohio. My dad woke me up at 5:30 a.m. so we could get in the woods and to our stand before daylight. About 20 minutes after daylight a 10-point buck came right in on us within about 10 yards. I accidentally spooked it trying to get my gun positioned to shoot. The next deer we saw went running right behind us chasing after a doe. Then about 8:05 a.m. a doe appeared about 60 yards out and my dad told me to get my gun ready because he thought a buck would be following her.

    My dad was right because sure enough here it came. It was the biggest buck I had ever seen. I asked my dad if I could shoot. He said “wait, the deer is walking closer.” Then the deer turned broadside at 50 yards. That’s when my dad said “shoot it.” BOOM! The doe took off running right by us. My dad asked me if I was aiming because the buck did not move. Then the buck tried to follow the doe and that was when we realized I had made a perfect shot. The deer went 10 yards towards us and fell down. My dad reloaded the muzzleloader and said if he moves shoot him again. We waited 45 minutes to get out of our stand. I called my mom right away and told her I had killed a monster buck. The rack was higher than the bed of our truck! It took us 2 ½ hours to get five miles home because everybody wanted to see my deer. They all wanted to know where I killed the deer and I would just say “in the woods!” It field dressed at 190 pounds and scored 171 3/8 net as a 10-point typical.

    Way to go Matt! By the way this was his first buck and he’s sticking to his story about his hunting location, “it’s in the woods!”

    -Mark Kayser [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 16, 2008

    City Marina Nixes Topless Fishing Charter - 2

    Kathi and Harold Coombes, who have been offering bikini and topless fishing charters since January, have been told they may no longer operate out of a Florida city marina.

    Dean Kubitschek, manager of the Fort Pierce City Marina, said the business was in violation of its family friendly policy.

    “We had no idea this was going on,” Kubitschek told The Palm Beach Post. “I can’t have families running up to me with brochures with nude ladies on them saying, ‘What's this?’ It’s not right.”


    The Coombeses insisted that nothing lurid or sexually explicit takes place during the charters, and that the women primarily serve as mates, providing drinks and bait.

    “Guys like seeing girls in bikinis rigging baits and setting the hook,” Ms. Coombes said.

    Smokin’ ‘Em Charter tours charges $1,250 for eight hours of fishing, with an additional $100 for each woman in a bikini and an additional $150 for each topless woman.

    In describing the charter’s clients, Ms. Coombes said, “They’re going to spend more money in a strip club, which isn’t as classy as what we do. It’s just entertainment.”

    The Coombeses have since resumed their charter business at a private marina.

    As a side note, The Smokin’ ‘Em Charters Web site is now announcing that the service is in need of some additional, uh, mates.

    “Some of the girls have not taken so well to all the publicity we have gotten lately. So if you can handle the job and want to make some good money call us today.”

    The job requirements?

    “No experience needed but you must be HOT in a bikini!”

    ‘Nuff said. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 15, 2008

    Modern Muzzleloading - 6

    The Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks recently approved the use of scopes on muzzleloaders during the state’s early-season deer hunt. Previously, only open or peep sights were allowed, though scopes had been allowed on muzzleloaders during the regular firearms season. This is great news for muzzleloader hunters, though I know a few blackpowder aficionados who don’t like the growing popularity of in-line muzzleloaders and modern optics. These guys prefer percussion caps and smoothbores, feeling it’s more in line with the spirit of “primitive arms” hunting.

    I won’t argue against that, but as a muzzleloader who uses a ”modern” in-line I have to say I much prefer my gear. Why?

    Mainly because I know the gun will fire when I pull the trigger. I am not a fan of flash in the pan or any of the other things than can keep a primitive arm from igniting. The inline muzzleloader is a tool, one that allows me to hunt more. Many states are awash in deer, and game departments are seeking ways to get hunters to spend more time in the woods. The modern muzzleloader is one way to do just that.

    But whether you use an inline or a percussion cap, you’re still limited to a single shot. And that puts a premium on careful shot placement. I, for one, have no problem with that.

    —Slaton White  [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 15, 2008

    Turkey Slam Day 7: Grand Slam ends with a bang - 9


    Today dawned the way it should in April, with a chorus of explosive gobbles blasting from trees silhouetted against the dark sky.

    We were set up less than 100 yards from where we found turkeys headed to the roost yesterday evening, and given the number and urgency of the gobbles that were in front us, we guessed there were between six and 10 ramped-up toms ready to pitch down from the cottonwood trees.

    We had a decoy out in the opening where we expected the birds to land, and Shawn White had his shotgun on his knee, waiting for a big Merriam’s tom to strut to its death.

    Shawnmerriam [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 15, 2008

    VP Cheney Taking Hillary Hunting? - 2

    It’s widely accepted among most Americans—even journalists--that you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers these days.

    That was especially true if you happened to pick up a print copy of The Boston Herald the other day and read the story appearing at the top of page 6. The one with the headline: “VP guns for shootout with Hill,” with credit given to the Associated Press.


    Here’s the lead paragraph:

    “One day after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton professed an abiding affection for guns and hunting, her love of firearms came under attack from another sometime hunter in Washington. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney said that a hunting contest between him and the New York senator was ‘the only way’ to determine whether Sen. Clinton's tales of her gun prowess were for real.”

    What a story, huh? Except that there wasn’t a shred of truth to it, of course.

    The Boston Daily blog, a production of Boston Magazine, reported yesterday that the Herald was completely duped by the story, actually the work of satirist Andy Borowitz that had appeared on several left-leaning weblogs, including The Huffington Post.

    Among the fabricated quotes that should have been a red flag for the Herald editors is this juicy morsel:

    “To be frank, Hillary Clinton’s stories about her adventures with guns don’t exactly pass the smell test,” the vice president told host Tim Russert. “If she really wants to show that she knows how to handle a rifle, there’s an easy way to do that: meet me in the woods.”

    Herald publisher Kevin Convey told Boston Daily that his editors were “bamboozled” by the fake story.

    He said the story was picked up as straight news in Google, and was folded into unrelated wire reports from the AP, making it into both the online and print editions of the paper.

    “We failed to double-check the item against the Meet the Press website, which we should have done. We have changed our policies a bit to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Convey told the Boston Magazine blog.

    The paper has since published a correction.

    It’s too bad, though. Guess we’ll never know the outcome of a Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton hunting challenge.

    Now THAT would be news! [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 14, 2008

    Another In-Box Mystery Buck - 0

    Bbz Those of you who are frequent visitors to the Big Buck Zone know that we often receive unsolicited e-mails and photos of huge bucks or wildlife oddities. Head over to to see the photos that found their way into our inbox and simply beg for more information. This giant of a muley is something that dreams are made of—my dreams at least. Anyone care to venture a guess at its score?
    —Gerry Bethge, Deputy Editor  [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 14, 2008

    Turkey Slam Day 6: Sleep-deficit Rio - 1


    The driving rain of yesterday followed us all the way to north-central Oklahoma, to the Chain Ranch where we were scheduled to hunt Rio Grande gobblers today.

    There wasn’t much left of any of us – either Grand Slam hunter Shawn White, videographer Chuck Sumner or myself – as we pulled into the Chain Ranch bunkhouse at 3:30 a.m. It was the end of the road that started in Tallahassee, Florida yesterday morning, stretching for more than 1,200 miles. Our only stops were for gas, food and an Oklahoma turkey tag for Shawn.

    ShawnrioWe were bushed, and the relentless deluge raised our spirits only because it meant that we might be rained out this morning, able to sleep in for a few hours. Sleep has been a rare commodity on this trip. We’ve been up every morning well over an hour before sunrise and the early mornings and late evenings – and all those miles – have been taking their toll on our energy and attitudes.

    If I expected the rain to keep us in bed I was wrong. The bunkhouse phone rang at 5:15 a.m. It was Newley Hutchinson, telling us to get on our camo and meet him outside in 15 minutes. It would have been easier waking up a narcoleptic shift worker than rousing Shawn, but finally he woke and pulled on his tired hunting clothes.

    Newley was maddeningly chipper. His family owns the Chain, one of the historic ranches of Oklahoma, and Newley runs the hunting operation on the home place, running deer, turkey and pig leases in Kansas and Oklahoma’s extreme western Panhandle.

    Newley had told me a few days ago that he expected the Rio hunt to be over within a half hour. At the time that sounded like lead-pipe certainty, but after our experience in Florida I’m taking nothing for granted.

    The rain had quit, but everything was sodden as we tucked into pin oaks and junipers along a little creek. Newley had seen about 200 turkeys in this draw before the rain, and as the sun bled through the gray sky we heard a couple of gobbles from the roost. We talked to a few birds, but nothing was coming in on a string, the way Rios do when they’re ramped up.

    Then we heard clucks and a high-pitched, abbreviated jake gobble right behind us. We repositioned ourselves and watched a dozen jakes sparring for a handful of hens in the fescue and little bluestem just out of shotgun range. No longbeards. Then three mature gobblers swaggered down the hill and joined the other birds. Nothing was responding to our calls. They were more intent on preening and drying off their soaked plumage than playing with us.

    Newley and Chuck made some soft calls while I lifted our hen decoy into their view. Little by little, the longbeards worked our direction, and Shawn pivoted his shotgun as they strutted and pecked around the head of the hardwood draw.

    A load of Federal Heavyweight 7’s punched the heavy air and Shawn’s Rio hunt was over. The gobbler was a solid 2-year-old, but one of his spurs was broken off right at the leg.

    We high-fived, took photos and soaked in the second gobbler of our 4-bird slam. Then we loaded back in Newley’s pickup and got a tour of the ranch. I think we saw every one of those 200 birds and even worked a few, but all Shawn, Chuck and I could think of was taking an old-man nap. Even two hours of pillow time would refresh us for our 325-mile drive across the Panhandle to the tiny town of Kenton, where we’d finish our Slam with a Merriam’s hunt.

    [ Read Full Post ]