The Washington State “Mini-Slam”
When it comes to measuring hunting accomplishments, the word “slam” rises above all other vernacular. It signifies a special achievement and hunters who can claim a slam have good reason to be proud. Legendary bow hunter, Chuck Adams, is best known for his “Super Slam” where he became the first bowhunter to kill all 27 species of North American big game. Sheep hunters receive high praise and admiration from the hunting community when they kill all four species of North American sheep, which holds the label of “Grand Slam.”
Most hunters will never be able to afford the above mentioned slams, but there is one slam that is within reach of the average hunter and it is called the “Turkey Grand Slam.” This slam includes the killing of the major four sub-species of U.S. wild turkeys including the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, and Osceola turkeys. Although the Osceola turkey is only found in parts of Florida and most likely requires a local guide and the hunting of private property, the other three species are readily available in their respective states.
If traveling to Florida seems out of reach, then there is another option for obtaining a slam, and it is called the Washington State Turkey “Mini-Slam.” Most states hold only one species of wild turkey, and some states are home to two species, but only one state in the country is home to three species of wild turkey and that is Washington State. Washington allows hunters to kill all three species in one single season, and this makes it one of the best kept turkey hunting secrets in the country.
Ironically, the Eastern species of turkey are found in the western part of the state. Thurston, Lewis and Cowlitz counties along the I-5 corridor are the strongholds for good turkey numbers, but birds can also be found in Gray’s Harbor, Mason, Pacific, and Wahkiakum counties.
The Rio Grande and Merriam’s sub-species can both be found in the central and eastern part of the state. You can look online for tips on where to go, but I will share with you an area that I have experienced years of success at.
I would start hunting about eight miles north of Kettle Falls, WA. There are good areas of government land between Boyds, WA and the Canadian border which hold both species. However, a good tip is to remember that the Rio Grande birds are mostly found in the bottom lands and valleys, and the Merriam’s are found up higher on ridges and benches. The terrain in this area is varied, but hills are not in short supply. A hunter will have to plan on climbing between 500 and 1000 feet to bag a trophy Merriam’s turkey. Luckily, Merriam’s seem to respond to the calls a lot more aggressively than the lower Rio’s, and the birds have a chance to grow older in the highlands.
With proper planning, you can complete the Washington Mini-Slam in two weekends. This is snow country, so a good rule of thumb is to avoid opening weekend if the temps are around freezing and there is still snow on the ground. After spending a decade hunting this area, I have observed that the second week of the season is usually the best time to start getting serious.