MERRIAM’S BEARD DEBACLE

In 2004 I went on my quest for the Wild Turkey Grand Slam. I have already written a story about this adventure, but there’s more to it. I had gone to Florida and harvested an Osceola turkey, and then I went to Texas and tagged four Rio Grande birds near Brackettville, TX. Then I made a side trip to Dallas to visit my sister and her family. I enjoyed visiting with Jeanne, along with her husband and her kids Kayleigh and Evan. She allowed me to keep my birds in her freezer while I stayed a few days.
Finally, it was time to set out for Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where I stayed at the home of my guide, Jesse Trueblood. One of the stipulations to hunt on the reservation was to have an Indian guide, and I choose Jesse. I settled in for the evening and looked forward to harvesting a Merriam’s turkey on this third leg of my Grand Slam quest.
As Paul Harvey used to say: “now, for the rest of the story.” After breakfast, we set out in hopes of getting me an old longbeard. We parked and listened for a gobble, and it wasn’t long before we heard one fairly close. Soon, we heard some more gobbles, so we closed the distance on a flock of about twenty turkeys. There were three strutters in the group, but we couldn’t call them into our position. Jesse said he thought he knew where they were heading, and we could drive around and get ahead of the flock and have a better chance of getting a shot
We got in his truck and drove around in front of the birds. Finally, we were able to see them coming in our direction, so we got set up to try and get them to come to us. We were slightly above them (which is usually a good thing). Soon there were three hens and a great longbeard in shotgun range, and the rest of the flock was in tow. I had to wait till the gobbler was far enough away from the hens to get a clean shot and not kill one of them. It seemed like forever, but he finally gave me the opportunity, so I pulled the trigger.
Down he went, and the other 19 birds scattered everywhere. I jumped up and ran down to where the gobbler was lying. He was a great bird, but I had shot most of his beard off – I couldn’t believe it! I know it was probably at least two feet long, but I couldn’t prove it since I had shot all of it off except for about 4”!I was extremely disappointed, to say the least, but since I had my big boy pants on, I didn’t cry. He weighed 19 pounds and 4 ounces and had about 1” spurs (and an estimated 24” beard). I now had harvested three of the four birds needed for my Slam, but I was really frustrated with myself for shooting half of his beard off.
Fortunately, I was able to redeem myself that evening. I shot another bird just before dark as they were heading to their roost. My second bird had a much longer beard (because I didn’t shoot it off!) His was 9.4375” long, both spurs were .8750”, and he weighed 19 pounds and 6 ounces. I harvested 2 Merriam’s turkeys in one day.
The next morning, I said goodbye to Jesse and headed home to Kentucky in hopes of finishing my Grand Slam. Even though I had previously harvested 29 Eastern Wild Turkeys, my goal was to achieve the Grand Slam all in one year, so when I got back home, I was able to harvest two more Eastern birds to complete my goal. What an adventure! I harvested nine birds that season.


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