The 2014 Turkey Odyssey Begins Today

In reviewing past posts to this forum I’ve noticed a distinct trend.

The last few years, right around February, I start to go stir-crazy and begin writing about turkey hunting.  I write about preparations, I write about memories, and I write about the malaise and madness that precedes any turkey season in my household.

And this year it will be no different.  Except that it will be different, and here’s why.

This year I’ll be pursuing the second bird in my goal of harvesting a Grand Slam, as I go after a Merriam’s turkey in southeastern British Columbia.  This all came together earlier this week, and it has been the dominant thought in my brain ever since.

From a hunter’s perspective, this is going to be my ‘trip of a lifetime’ to date.  I have been fortunate enough to have a lifelong friend (we’ll call him Chris, because that is his name) who is currently living in the Kootenay region, and he’s an avid sportsman.  Once I made the connection between his location and the availability of Merriam’s turkeys in his part of the country, it was just a matter of time before I finagled my way into a turkey hunt with him.  Chris has been a lifelong angler, and in the last few years made the leap into the hunting fraternity.  That he has harvested more deer in that short time than I have in a lifetime doesn’t grate on me at all.  But, you see, despite his successes on whitetails and his enjoyment of upland bird hunting, Chris has never turkey hunted and this is where the adventure takes on another dimension.  I absolutely want to harvest one of those dark, hardy mountain birds with the ivory-tipped tails; I want it in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time.  But as anyone who has chased gobblers knows, there is also a keen desire to introduce others to the ecstatic joys and crippling defeats of turkey hunting and that’s what I intend to do for Chris.

From my personal perspective as a writer it is a veritable gold mine of inspiration.  The process of booking the trip, assembling the gear, packing, tracking down licenses and tags, transporting the weapons, the committing to memory and documenting of the unique beauty of that part of Canada, and ultimately the hunt itself will be fodder for post after post on this humble corner of the internet.  If my fingertips could salivate at the prospect of so much writing, they would.

For those unfamiliar with the Grand Slam concept, it is the harvesting of all four sub-species of wild turkey. The sub-species in question are the Eastern, of which I’ve shot a handful now, the Merriam’s, which lives in pine-covered, mountainous Western regions, the Rio Grande found throughout the west and mid-west United States, and the Osceola, a bird localized only to the Florida peninsula.  Only the Merriam’s and the Eastern inhabit Canada, so there’s a special sub-category of Grand Slam called a Canadian Slam, that to date has only been claimed to have been completed by seven people.  If I can tag a Merriam’s I’m one step closer that select club.  But the history of Grand Slams and their relative ease or difficulty is a tale for another time.

The key thing is I’m going.  Convincing my employer, and more importantly my spouse, took some doing, as I am unbelievably busy with the former and often at odds about hunting trips with the latter.  But this is a limited time opportunity, and I just had to make it happen.  My dad has always said that there may come in a time in a man’s life when he reflects on the past, and the worst thing to have to do is to sit and regret a life’s opportunities not taken. With that said, since I have the means, the time, and the desire, there is literally no reason not to book the flight and get out there.

Chris and I have already had a few chats about this trip, and aside from the chance to travel and share the Kootenays with a friend who not only stood at my wedding, but one who also got shamelessly drunk with me on several occasions in our rebellious teen years, and who has known me literally since pre-school, the greater excitement is in getting him geared up and ready to go.  As shown in previous posts, I am a confessed gearhead and nowhere do I have more goodies, toys, gadgets, and accessories than in my turkey vest.  Since I have accumulated this small fortune of equipment organically over the last eight years I hardly expect my comrade in arms to gear up completely in just a few months.  But for anyone starting out as a turkey hunter, as I told my friend, a box call, a locator call of some sort, a face mask, and some turkey-specific shotgun shells is enough gear to start out nicely.  A box call is the easiest interface by far to make convincing turkey sounds, and a good crow call can be used at almost any hour of the hunt to prospect for gobblers.  The utility of a good face mask goes without saying; ditto for reliable shotgun shells.

Then we just need birds.

I’m not particularly sure as to the relative abundance or scarcity of turkeys in Chris’s area, but he’s indicated that he’s got a line on a few likely spots.  Public land is in abundance by all accounts, and in some rudimentary topographic map research I’ve done seems to point to mixed upland forests interspersed with clearings as one of the more dominant terrain features.  There are spots in the area that just have the look of a gobbler’s haunt, and the hope is to get a scout/hunt in on the Friday afternoon when I arrive, then just hitting the woods hard for up to three days before my return flight late on the Monday.  Reviewing the terrain has also opened my eyes to the sheer ruggedness of the area.  For an Ontarian flat-lander like me, this is truly a high country hunt, and even though there is much higher country even further to the west of this trip’s home base, I imagine there will be some up and down climbs required to get onto birds.  For my part, I’ve been hitting the treadmill since my tolerance for climbing mountainsides and delving into valleys could be politely described as ‘inadequate’ after a deer season and Christmastime that was filled with rich meals and plenty of liquid celebrations.

Like everything else in my life, my goal is to embarrass myself as little as possible and vomiting from exertion in front of one of friends is not on bucket list.  So that’s the plan.  Stay tuned for updates as I stroke milestones of the list.  Next up, wrangling a travel case for my shotgun.  Perhaps a bit of a test-and-compare piece for my next post.

So come April, I’ll be opening up this year’s turkey season in Ontario in late April, and then part way through May I’ll be running to BC for this hunting smash up with a chum.  Birds notwithstanding I am already anticipating four epic days of laughs, scenic vistas, good eats, and plenty of time afield, and I look forward to putting all those memories in here.

Because creating memories and sharing the hunt with friends and family is what it is all about when I get right down to it.

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