Photos: Chasing The World Turkey Slam

Earlier this month, I completed my world slam of wild turkeys, tagging all 6 subspecies of turkeys in the U.S. and Mexico. Some folks manage this accomplishment in a single season. It took me 6 or 7 years before I downed my final gobbler in the series, this beautiful Osceola turkey from Florida. I can't say my slam was intentional. It just sort of evolved, but the most memorable parts of the pursuit weren't the turkeys. They were the experiences along the way. And the people who helped me, like my friend Linda Powell, pictured here with my last (or at least latest) in a long line of gobblers.
Turkey hunts took me to some remarkable country, like Hells Canyon in Idaho, where I shot this Eastern gobbler after belly crawling through a grassy meadow, drenching with a recent rain. Here, I pose with hunting partners Brent Lawrence, right, and Gabe McMasters in the window of an old homestead.
Later, we take a couple of gobblers to the undulating ridges of Hells Canyon for a photo shoot hosted by my buddy John Hafner.
This Merriam's was one of many I've taken over the years in South Dakota. I was driving with my buddy Barnabas Koka to a spot where he had seen gobblers strutting. We came around a bend, saw this gobbler at the bottom of a draw, and I made a long stalk. The gobbler never came out of strut, and his fanned tail created a huge blind spot. I probably could have walked up and killed him with a baseball bat. Such is the price of vanity.
The scene through the canvas at one of my most photogenic turkey camps, a wall tent pitched in Nebraska's Sand Hills.
On one of my trips to this camp, I hooked up with Rick White, a pro-staffer for Hunters Specialties. After a few frustrating days of fruitless hunting, Rick and I finally set up along a corridor that funneled birds from the prairie to roost sites in the timber. We were ready to double up on longbeards when we had visitors of another sort: dozens of curious yearling cattle that wouldn't leave us alone, even when the turkeys filtered through the herd. All we could do was watch, and laugh.
Along the way, I have tried to help other folks to their first turkeys. This was one of my favorite hunts, a first gobbler for young Kyle Humbert, who killed this bird I called in on the banks of Montana's Milk River. Kyle's dad, Dan, helps show off the awesome bird.
As my pace of turkey hunting accelerated, I had some unexpected visitors. This great Montana gobbler came in on a string as I taught my young boys how to work a box call. The tom was so enamored by our calling that he wouldn't leave our campsite. At one point, this gobbler actually strutted right into our tent. Unfortunately, I was all tagged out, so all we could do was watch him display. Finally, he strutted down the hill and out of our lives.
Next on the list: Rio Grande gobblers, which are native to Texas. I chose to hunt them on Hawaii's big island instead, with the dubious help of Ray Eye. Here, Ray frightens traffic by wearing his feral-clown mask on one of the island's major highways.
Next, I hunted Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for ocellated turkeys, a curious subspecies that is equal parts peacock and wild turkey. I loved the sights of rural Mexico, like this game of soccer in an empty field just outside a small village. Stadium seats were the beds of working pickups.
And the highways were full of foot-powered conveyances like this.
I'm not sure who was happier when I finally shot my ocellated bird: me or my very affectionate Mayan guides.
Maybe my most surprising bird in the slam was this New Mexico Merriam's, which I shot at an elevation over 10,000 feet above sea level. The gobbler actually had to run over drifted snow to engage my decoys. Merriam's evolved in this sort of mountainous habitat, so it was gratifying to kill one behaving just as his alpine ancestors had for millennia.
The Gould's subspecies of wild turkey is one of the hardest to obtain, mainly because its distribution is limited to remote corners of the Southwest. I traveled to Mexico's Chihuahua state and hunted the stunning Sierra Madre mountains for this big gobbler with distinctive white-tipped tail feathers.
I killed two great Gould's, but even more memorable than my birds was watching my friend Tim Brandt tag his own Mexican gobbler.
After our crew was tagged out, we spent a day in Copper Canyon, Mexico's deeper, more impressive version of our Grand Canyon. High above the canyon rims, native kids hawked jewelry and scarves.
I'm a run-and-gun hunter. Turn me loose and let me roam and call, and I'll probably bring home a gobbler. But the Texas ranch where I hunted Rios this spring wanted hunters to stay in ground blinds. Our negotiated settlement: I got to leave the blind, but I was consigned to this sheep pen. Here, my hunting partner Karen Lee waits for birds to find our decoys. It was a lot like waiting in the Alamo, except there was a lot less shooting.
The ranch did a fair amount of predator control, though. This mesquite tree was decorated with coyotes that had the poor sense to get their feet caught up in snares hanging from its branches.
The highlight of the trip wasn't my own success, but rather the first gobbler for my hunting companion, Laci Warden. She downed this Rio with a 20 gauge spitting long-range Winchester loads.
But the culmination of my slam wasn't a giant gobbler taken in some remote corner of the world. It was this bird, a Montana Merriam's, which I shot years ago. What made it memorable was the company. My son tagged along, even though he was too young to hunt. He helped me scout, call, and he was on my heels when I peeked over a gumbo knob to see this tom strutting for a gang of hens. The rest of the afternoon, after we snapped this photo, my boy wore a tail feather of this gobbler in the back of his hat. That's the essence of turkey hunting, no matter where it happens.

Earlier this month, I completed my world slam of wild turkeys, tagging all 6 subspecies of turkeys in the U.S. and Mexico. Some folks manage this accomplishment in a single season. It took me 6 or 7 years before I downed my final gobbler in the series, this beautiful Osceola turkey from Florida. I can't say my slam was intentional. It just sort of evolved, but the most memorable parts of the pursuit weren't the turkeys. They were the experiences along the way. And the people who helped me, like my friend Linda Powell, pictured here with my last (or at least latest) in a long line of gobblers.