An Unexpected World Turkey Slam

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
J.J. Reich completed the NWTF World Slam on March 20, 2017, by harvesting this beautiful Ocellated wild turkey in Campeche, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

Often, great hunting quests are completed after meticulously detailed plans are laid out; other times, such memorable experiences happen in a relatively unexpected fashion

Sometimes, the most memorable hunting experiences in life are the ones that happen somewhat unexpectedly.

Take for instance the recent World Slam of turkey hunting J.J. Reich, Communications Manager for Federal Premium Ammunition, completed on March 20, 2017, in Campeche, Mexico.

Originally, Reich's goal was to simply test and promote some new turkey hunting shotgun loads and experience some enjoyable hunting, not necessarily to complete a difficult-to-achieve World Slam.

But when trips to Florida and Mexico occurred in 2015 – to help introduce Federal's new 3rd Degree turkey load – the idea of a World Slam was birthed.


NWTF Turkey Slams

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Eastern turkey harvested in Wisconsin
(Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

Die-hard turkey hunters – especially the ones willing to travel all over the U.S. and beyond – are intimately familiar with the term “slam.” The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recognizes several slam accomplishments, all of which test a hunter’s skills, sometimes over a period of years, at other times in a single season, all depending on time, money, skill and determination.


In simple terms, a Grand Slam is harvesting a turkey from each of the four primary U.S. subspecies, the Eastern, the Merriam’s, the Rio Grande, and the Osceola.


For a Royal Slam, add in the Gould’s wild turkey, found primarily in Northern Mexico.

For a World Slam like Reich's, you'll need to harvest all of the above plus the Ocellated wild turkey, primarily found in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula jungle region where many Mayan ruins are found.

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Rio Grande turkey harvested in
Oklahoma (Photo courtesy of J.J.
Reich)

For the record, the NWTF also recognizes three other Slams: the Canadian Slam (harvesting an Eastern and Merriam's in any province); the Mexican Slam (the Rio Grande, the Gould's and the Ocellated); and the U.S. Super Slam (harvesting one wild turkey subspecies in every state except Alaska).


Turkeys of North America

Of the six North American wild turkeys, the NWTF says Easterns are the most abundant. Primarily found east of the Mississippi River, Easterns are in 38 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces. Gobblers weigh 18 to 30 pounds and feature dark tail fans with chestnut brown tips, white and black barred wings, strong gobbling tendencies and the longest beards of all North American wild turkeys.

Rio Grande turkeys thrive in drier regions like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, many portions of the Western U.S. and in parts of Mexico. Gobblers typically weigh around 20 pounds and have lighter-color tail fans with tan tips. Moderate in their gobbling tendencies, Rios sport moderate beard and spur lengths.

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Merriam’s turkey harvested in
Nebraska (Photo courtesy of J.J.
Reich)

Merriam’s are found throughout the Western U.S. with most living in the Rocky Mountain states. Gobblers weigh 18 to 30 pounds and have snow-white feather tips on their tail fans. Featuring generally shorter beards and spurs, not to mention weaker gobbling tendencies than their Eastern and Rio cousins, Merriam's are strikingly beautiful turkeys that often live in breathtaking terrain.


The Osceola, also known as the Florida wild turkey, is found only in Florida. With a population estimated around 100,000, this Sunshine State turkey is generally considered to the toughest to tag in the U.S. Gobblers weigh around 20 pounds and are known for long legs, long spurs, and moderate beards. With dark brown tail-fan tips and mostly black wings with small white bands, the Osceola is highly prized.

The Gould’s turkey is found only in portions of Southern Arizona, Southern New Mexico and Northern Mexico. Gobblers weigh 18 to 30 pounds, gobble a fair amount and have moderately long beards and spurs. Known for their lighter colored tail-fan tips Gould's also feature black and white barring on the wings.

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
The Ocellated tom turkey doesn’t have a beard like the other five but does sport bright colors and long spurs. (Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

The Ocellated turkey, found only in portions of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Northern Belize, and Northern Guatemala, is a stunning bird. Smaller than other turkeys, Ocellated gobblers weigh only 11 to 12 pounds. Sporting a variety of rainbow-like iridescent colors, the Ocellated gobbler is highlighted by gray tail-fan feathers, blue-gold fan tips and white wing feathers that have black highlights. With a higher-pitched gobble and a hollow drumming sound, hunting this bird is a unique experience.

Turkey Slam Loads

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Because of Reich's work for a major ammunition manufacturer, he's particular about his turkey hunting loads, generally opting for either Federal Premium 3rd Degree or Federal Heavyweight No. 7 shotshells. (Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

“I certainly credit Federal (Premium Ammunition) for helping me with the World Slam accomplishment,” he said. “The versatility and knock-down power of these specialized (turkey) loads breeds confidence when it's time to gently squeeze the trigger.”


Federal's Heavyweight load features #7 tungsten-based pellets, which are some 35-percent denser than lead shot patterns and deliver excellent downrange knock-down power. In addition to 3- and 3 ½-inch 12-gauge loads, the newest 2 ¾-inch 12-gauge load offers 47-percent lower recoil than 3-inch shells do, while still delivering 1,300-feet-per-second 1 ¼-ounce payloads with the Flitecontrol wad.

Federal Premium's 3rd Degree load utilizes multi-sized shot and a three-stage payload to deliver lethal patterns at a variety of ranges. The wad's initially released pellets are #6 nickel-plated Flitestopper lead, which comprises 20 percent of the payload and delivers good patterns at close ranges. Next is copper-plated #5 shot, some 40 percent of the load that creates a swarm of evenly spaced pellets at middle range distances. Finally, #7 Heavyweight tungsten-iron pellets make up the back 40 percent of the load, utilizing a Flitecontrol wad that opens from the rear, stays with the shot column longer than conventional wads do, produces a higher downrange pellet count and delivers more energy than #5 lead does at 40-yard ranges.


Outfitting Help

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Osceola turkey harvested in Florida
(Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

To bag the three toughest gobblers in his World Slam, Reich relied on Tall Tine Outfitters, operated by Florida's Ted Jaycox.

“The hardest (birds to get) were the Osceola, the Gould’s, and the Ocellated, due to their smaller populations and specific areas they live," said Reich.

Take the Osceola, for instance.

“Jaycox’s success rate hunting Osceola birds in the orange groves, oak hammocks and cypress swamps of south and central Florida is excellent,” said Reich.

For the two birds in Mexico, the stateside outfitter's help proved invaluable.

“For Gould’s, he has more than 60,000 private acres with many flocks of gorgeous birds," said Reich. "For Ocellated turkeys, Jaycox books hunts for an outfitter who has been professionally guiding Ocellated turkey hunts in Mexico for decades.”

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Gould’s turkey harvested in Mexico
(Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

Reich highly recommends Tall Tine Outfitters because of the company's professional manner, efficiency in cutting through red-tape and the hassle-free experience brought by working with a skilled booking company.

To learn more, contact Jaycox at (352) 895-6736 or visit the website at www.talltine.com.

Final World Slam Bird

Like many other hunters, the most difficult turkey for Reich to tag in his quest was the Ocellated because of time, expense and travel distance.

But he says it was worth it all.

“There is no prettier turkey than the one found in Campeche, Mexico,” said Reich of his last World Slam turkey.

Equally impressive for Reich was the location and overall experience.

An Unexpected World Turkey Slam
Ocellated turkey harvested in Mexico
(Photo courtesy of J.J. Reich)

“Traveling to different locations and hunting in various terrains, plus meeting all the different and interesting outfitters, guides, cooks, and fellow hunters along the way, was the most rewarding part of the World Slam," he said.

But in the end, it all came down to a good old fashioned turkey hunt.

“I harvested mine hunting agriculture fields on the edges of wild jungle, using blinds and electronic callers," said Reich.

"It felt more like a traditional hunt and I really enjoyed that aspect," he added. "The photos of the amazing feathers, blue and yellow colors of the head, and large, sharp spurs make for an incredible trophy.”

An incredible trophy that capped off a remarkable turkey hunting quest.

Even if it was somewhat unexpected from the start.

Editor’s Note: Information about the various wild turkey subspecies described in this article was found at the National Wild Turkey Federation's website at www.nwtf.org.

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