When I called Shawn to congratulate him on his selection as our Grand Slam winner, I thought we had lost the phone connection. There was just silence on the other end of the line. Then Shawn said, disbelief hovering in his voice, “I never win anything. Are you sure you have the right guy?”

That first conversation ended a bit early because Shawn was out the door with a half-dozen kids, all first-time squirrel hunters. Do we have the right guy? Oh, yeah.

Let me tell you a bit about Shawn, and you can decide for yourselves. The Pomeroy, Ohio hunter is a relative youngster, just 27 years old. He grew up in the hardwood hills and fields of the Ohio River Valley just as turkey populations were climbing back to huntable numbers. But the only person who knew anything about turkey hunting was a great-uncle who gave him a few pointers.

The rest he learned on his own, and Shawn is a quick study. He has bagged 13 gobblers in 12 years of hunting, all of them but one longbeards and all of them Easterns from his neighborhood of southeastern Ohio. Shawn has a 5-year-old daughter, and in the last year he’s been more focused on taking her hunting than on his own success.

Shawn prefers slate calls but blows a soft, enticing mouth call for close-in work. And most of his calling is in tight quarters. Shawn likes to work the ridges, get a gobbler to respond, then move in on him and call him into range, usually in tight timber.

His dream, he says, has been to hunt turkeys in different landscapes. He’s about to get his chance.

Shawn and I fly on Friday to Orlando, where we’ll be greeted by Realtree cameraman Chuck Sumner. We’ll head out to Bass Pro’s Orlando store to get outfitted, and then we’re off to meet Wayne Shelby at his lodge outside Polk City, Florida.

Hopefully Saturday will dawn with an Osceola gobbler strutting his way into our laps, lured in by one of the Primos calls we’ll be using.

Once we tag out in central Florida, we head north to hunt Easterns with Van Collins on his Quail Valley Plantation near the Georgia line northeast of Tallahassee. We have a couple days budgeted for that hunt before we begin our trek west to Oklahoma in our gear-filled Suburban. We’re due to be hunting Rio Grande gobblers on the Chain Ranch in north-central Oklahoma by the middle of next week. And then we finish the Grand Slam with Merriam’s gobblers in the extreme western tip of Oklahoma’s Panhandle. With luck, four longbeards will fall to the Benelli Super Black Eagle.

We’ll fly out of Amarillo, Texas, hopefully with full coolers and even fuller memories of an epic hunt. Memories that will sustain Shawn as he introduces future generations of kids to the excitement and challenge of turkey hunting.

Keep your eye on The Strut Zone for daily updates from the road as we log details of our cross-country, Grand Slam odyssey.

– Andrew McKean