Turkey Slam Day 5: The long, open road

This is shaping up as an old-time road trip. We’re each settled in to our own particular space in the vehicle, and the rhythm of Interstate 10 coaxes out all sorts of conversations as the three of us – strangers less than a week ago – get to know each other’s backgrounds, preferences and opinions. We spend some time revisiting our two hunts, and the consensus is that we should have had an Osceola gobbler in the bag. We just got too greedy, holding out for a trophy gobbler in full strut when a mature, non-strutting turkey was in range on at least two occasions.

1:00 p.m. CST – We’re cruising the side streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana looking for a wireless internet signal so I can send my Strut Zone post. The clock is ticking on our trip as we bounce from one fruitless spot to the next. The distraction is starting to unravel our solidarity and good cheer as we itch to put more miles under the Suburban. I’m getting some dark looks and watch-tapping exasperation from my compadres as I finally find a portal to send the Day 3 post.

8:00 p.m. CST – We’re barreling through Shreveport, Louisiana, one of the towns in the recent OL Top Places for Sportsmen feature. My sense of place has always been acute, but it’s really getting exercised on this trip. The great thing about this Turkey Slam Adventure has been hunting the places where each subspecies lives. We got to know intimately the thick, jungly palmetto swamps of central Florida. Then we experienced in deeper ways than most visitors the hardwood bottoms and red-clay ridges of northern Florida. And now we’re watching the landscape change each hour. We’ve passed the tidal bays and salt-marsh flats of the Gulf Coast. We’ve zipped past the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina, still appallingly fresh after nearly four years. We’ve seen rice patties and crawfish farms and watched the landscape transition from deep woods to open savannah and now to scrubby piney hills. We’re cutting a swath through the very heart of America’s wild turkey country, and I regret I won’t have enough lives to hunt it all.

10:30 p.m. CST – We’re north of Dallas, steaming up I-35 to Oklahoma City. We’ve entered a different, more grueling phase of the trip. Shawn is sleeping. I’m driving and Chuck is texting his son so the message will await him tomorrow, his 7th birthday. We all just want to get to Canton, to get out of this vehicle, and to steal even one or two precious hours of sleep before we rise before dawn to hunt a Rio Grande gobbler on the historic Chain Ranch west of Canton.

Update: It's now early Thursday morning. We got into the Chain Ranch bunkhouse at 3:30 a.m. this morning, after driving through an intense thunderstorm that savaged north Texas and eastern Oklahoma. I'll update our experience with Rios tomorrow, assuming I can find someplace with internet access to send this to Outdoor Life's editorial office in New York.
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- Andrew McKean_