Colfax man achieves “Grand Slam” in turkey hunting
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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — In the world of turkey hunting, if you shoot one each of the four species of wild turkey that exist in the United States, then you have achieved a Grand Slam.
Colfax resident Carey Davis, who is in his 50th year of hunting, recently completed his Grand Slam by shooting the last of the four species, the Eastern wild turkey, in northern Wisconsin.
The four species (or subspecies, depending on the source you are consulting) are the Eastern, the Rio Grande, the Merriam and the Osceola.
Davis flew out of Minneapolis on April 14 for Frostproof, Florida, in search of the Osceola.
He achieved his goal of taking an Osceola on April 15 and then prepared to return to Wisconsin a few days later.
In Florida, it was 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I’ve never hunted in conditions like that,” Davis said.
When he was ready to leave Florida, the airline changed his flight from April 19 to April 18, leaving Davis in somewhat of a state of chaos at the airport.
After the airline finally located a ticket for him, “I missed my flight,” he said.
Davis was home in Colfax for three days, and then he got in his vehicle and headed for Nebraska for four days, where he achieved taking a Merriam.
Then he moved on to find his Rio Grande turkey.
The Eastern wild turkeys occupy about the eastern one-half of the United States. If you draw a line from Wisconsin south, then the Eastern are in that portion of the United States, with the exception of Florida, where only the Osceola exists, Davis explained.
The Merriams are in the western part of the United States, and the Rio Grandes are in southwestern part of the United States, he said.
After shooting the Osceola, Merriam and Rio Grande, Davis said he returned home for four hours, just long enough to acknowledge the birthday of his significant other, and then headed up to northern Wisconsin.
“I got there on Thursday and hunted until Monday morning, when I got my turkey,” he said.
“My home state was harder, tougher hunting than all the other states,” Davis said.
“I met a lot of really nice people along the way. They were all younger than me. The younger people really impressed me, to help an old guy like me out to find a turkey to hunt,” he said.
“In the end, I accomplished the Grand Slam of the four turkeys in the United States — the Osceola, the Rio Grande, the Merriam and the Eastern,” Davis said.
All four species have their similarities, “but they they have their own attitudes, too. It was a real neat accomplishment,” he said.
Next year, Davis plans to hunt in Mexico for the Gould and the Ocellated turkeys.
When hunters have taken the four species in the United States, it is called a Grand Slam. When a hunter takes another of the species, it’s called a Royal Slam, and when a hunter has taken all six species, it’s called a World Slam, Davis said.
“You have a lifetime to do it. I accomplished the Grand Slam in a solo year. The Royal and the World Slam — my intentions are to accomplish that in a two-year period. Will I accomplish that next year? I don’t know,” he said.
In Nebraska this year, the worst of the weather was fighting 65 mile-per-hour winds the whole time, Davis said.
“That was a problem,” he noted.
“Back in Wisconsin, it was anything from 22 degrees to rain all day long and not too much heat involved. Not much wind. But rain and cold weather,” Davis said.
“We went from 96 degrees to 22 degrees and the wind in between,” he said.
All four the turkeys were “nice birds.” Two of them are bigger birds, and two of them are smaller birds. The turkeys in Mexico are the smallest, with the average being a 10 to 12 pound bird, Davis said.
Records kept by people who keep records of such things indicate there are only 390 people in the United States who have achieved a World Slam. Only 17 of those people are from Wisconsin.
“I would be in an elite club!” Davis exclaimed.
The Ocellated turkey, in addition to being in Mexico, also is in Hawaii. The Gould is in Arizona and New Mexico as well as Mexico, he noted.
In the beginning
Davis started hunting at the age of 13.
His parents said he was too small at the age of 12 to handle a gun, so he had to wait another year until he was 13.
“I never got to hunt with my dad. He retired from hunting the year I turned 13. That was the first year he didn’t hunt. So I never got to hunt with my dad, although I had always wanted that,” Davis said.
“I have five brothers that I hunted with … we all six hunted together,” he said.
“I remember if any one of us shot a deer — Holy Cow! — that was something really, really special,” Davis recalled.
Only Carey and one of his brothers hunt turkeys and have been hunting them since they were reintroduced to Wisconsin about 40 years ago.
“They are a tough animal to hunt. I’ve always said they are the smartest dumbest bird I’ve ever seen. They out-fox you, and out-fox you, and out-fox you, and then the next day — they’re just dumb as dumb. They walk right up to you and you shoot them. And you think, ‘Why did it take me 12 days to do this?’” he said.
Davis said he has started hunting turkeys with a 28-gauge shotgun because it does not shoot very far.
“My excitement with the hunt now is to see how close I can get them (to come in). Instead of the opposite of seeing how far I can shoot them,” he said.
“Years ago, I thought I needed a gun I can shoot 60 yards with. Now, I won’t even shoot that. Now I want to see if I can get them within five yards of me. That’s exciting,” Davis said.
“If I had to make a choice, I would give up all hunting except for turkey. Turkey is the most exciting hunting out there. Everything that takes place. It’s just exciting,” he said.
The thing about turkeys is that they are wary, have a keen sense of hearing, sensitive eyesight and are very sensitive to movement. Even the nod of your head or the reflection off a set of eye glasses can send them soaring out of gun range in seconds.
It also takes a certain amount of skill and practice with turkey calls to make the tom turkey think you are a hen and to start moving in your direction — even when the tom is a quarter of a mile away.
When they are moving in close to you and the tom gobbles, the ground seems to vibrate, “and the hair stands up on the back of your neck,” Davis said.
“The suspense of that, even if it is just 10 seconds, is something else,” he said.
Each and every turkey hunt is different and unique. Deer hunting, for example, “can be the same old stuff,” and with pheasant hunting, “you get the dog out. Walk down the ditch. Flush a pheasant. And you’re done,” Davis said.
“Turkey hunting is something different all the time. They land in front of you, or you call them from a half mile away. They can travel this country in no time. Patience. That’s what I tell everybody. Patience in turkey hunting is everything,” he said.
Skill with turkey calls is important, too, he noted.
“I’d rather be lucky any day, though, because luck comes easier than being good,” he said with a laugh.
Throughout his years of hunting, Davis has taken a certain amount of time to mentor young people in the art, sportsmanship, and skill of hunting.
“Any kid who wants to come hunting with me is more than welcome. It won’t cost a dime. I’ll buy them their license. I’ll give them a gun to use. I will do whatever it takes. I just love mentoring,” he said.
Davis said it used to be easy to find youngsters to mentor when his own children were younger because he would go to school events and meet other parents. Maybe it was a situation of a single mother who did not hunt herself. Or a situation where neither Mom nor Dad hunted. Either way, the kid really wanted to try hunting.
Deer, turkey, small game, any kind of hunting the kid wants to do, “that’s what we’ll do,” Davis said.
“The beauty of turkey hunting is you get up early in the morning. You go out there. It is dark. It’s black. There’s nothing. Then all of a sudden, a deer snorts at you. Whistles. He knows you’re there. Then the birds start to chirp. And the turkeys start to talk. The lights. You see a yard light go out because the sun is coming up,” he said.
“Then pretty soon, a car goes by on the road. Then more cars. The whole world wakes up. That’s just amazing … Everything wakes up and comes alive. The same way with the people. You are out in the woods. You hear the traffic. Then the train goes by. The whole world wakes up. It’s really cool,” Davis said.
“When I get kids to mentor, that’s what I try to teach them. It’s not just about the hunt. It’s not just about the kill. It’s all about being outdoors. The memories. The nostalgia. If you harvest an animal, that’s a bonus. It’s the whole experience,” he said.
“I know everyone wants to harvest an animal. Including me. But that’s not what it’s all about,” Davis said.
“I had a great trip and a super experience,” Davis said of achieving the Grand Slam.
“I was going to do it years ago. Early 2000s. Then I bought a bar-restaurant. That consumed my life. After that, I got away from turkey hunting. I still hunted, but not like I did before,” he said.
“Once I had some time to myself again, I got back into turkey hunting. Then this year, I had my shoulder replaced. When I was sitting around and recovering, I decided, ‘Now is the time.’ I had a passion to do this for a long time, and it’s finally come together,” Davis said.
Over the years, Davis has experienced some health problems, including surviving cancer three times.
“I feel good now. So now is the time to do it. I encourage anybody who has a dream, to go out and do it,” he said.
“If the time isn’t right or the conditions aren’t right, figure out why it’s not right … if you want to do it bad enough, you need to do it,” Davis said.
“There are no guarantees in this life. Why have people say, ‘He always wanted to do this but he never got to.’ Take advantage of life while you can. And if you’ve got an an excuse about why NOT to do it — make sure it’s a damn good excuse,” he said.