Area youngster completes turkey ‘slam’
Jackson Warner has accomplished what few hunters his age ever have.
In the wilds of western Colorado, the 10-year-old shot and killed a Merriam’s turkey and thus became one of the youngest people to complete the North American “grand slam” of four wild turkey subspecies.
“I did some research, and as far as I could determine, the youngest kid do complete the slam was an 8-year-old,” said Bobby Warner, Jackson’s father. “I found evidence that a couple of other 10-year-olds had done it, too. But it’s safe to say Jackson is among the youngest to complete the slam.”
Jackson became interested in the slam when he was 5 years old.
“That was the year I killed my first turkey,” he said. “I got that one on Dad’s property in Meigs County, Ohio. It was an Eastern bird, of course. Dad was chasing his own slam at the time, and I tagged along with him on a hunt in Montana. That got me interested in trying for a slam of my own.”
Jackson didn’t have to wait long to get started. The following spring, he and Bobby journeyed from their Charleston home to Florida in search of Osceola turkeys.
“It was a really great hunt,” Jackson recalled. “We went to Disney World first, which kind of got me pumped up for the hunt.
“We hiked out into a field, and we could hear gobblers on the other side. We set up against a tree and Dad started calling. The birds came in through the fog, strutting. I let one of them get within about 15 yards and I shot it. I was super excited because it was a great bird, with inch-and-a-half spurs.”
Jackson killed a second Osceola on that trip, and Bobby killed one to complete his grand slam. Bobby said that with his own slam taken care of, he could concentrate fully on helping Jackson to finish his. In 2012, the two traveled down to the Texas-Oklahoma border to try to get Jackson a Rio Grande bird.
“We drove to this little farm and got there late, so we scouted a bit and saw this great big mature [gobbler],” Jackson said. “The next morning we went after him, but when we got out there we found out that dad had forgotten my shotgun shells.
“Dad gave me a choice — go back for my 20-gauge shells, use his 12-gauge gun, or sit that day’s hunt out while Dad got his bird. I told him I’d shoot the 12-gauge.
“We found a cove in a perfect tree and set out some decoys. The birds we were hunting were way out in the distance, and it took them a while to come in. When they finally did come in, there was a huge gobbler behind them in full strut. I watched the gobbler attack one of our decoys, and then I shot him.”
Jackson ended up getting two birds on that hunt, too, and since by then he had already killed two Osceolas and several Eastern gobblers, he technically was only two Merriam’s birds away from a double grand slam.
Were it not for Colorado’s one-bird limit, he might already have that double slam in hand.
On April 26, Jackson and Bobby, hunting near the rim of Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, found the flock of Merriam’s turkeys that would allow Jackson to complete his slam.
The hunt hadn’t started well. The Warners had spent a large portion of a day searching for a ground blind that would accommodate Jackson, Bobby and Jackson’s younger brother Gage.
“We went to five stores and never found one,” Jackson said. “The landowner let us use one of his, but it was small and we were really crowded in there.
“It was crazy hot. We were taking off our jackets and trying to stay cool. Then the weather changed and it started raining, snowing and hailing, so we bundled our clothes back on.
“When the rain slacked off, we hiked to a couple of big alfalfa fields not far away. We spotted a couple of hens, a couple of jakes and a really nice gobbler. We ran back to the blind and Dad started calling.”
About 20 minutes after Bobby’s first call, the little flock came over a ridge and headed toward the blind.
“The gobbler was in full strut, and he came in and circled the decoy, gobbling this really funny gobble. After he knocked over the decoy, Dad whispered that I should take him when I had a good shot,” Jackson said.
“He gobbled again, and when he had his neck fully stretched out at the peak of his gobble, I took the shot. After the excitement died down, I realized that I’d taken a great bird and that I finally had my grand slam.”
Jackson said the time he spends hunting with Bobby is precious to him.
“I get to spend a lot of time with my dad, but hunting with him is special. I have a great dad who cares for me and loves me,” Jackson said.
Bobby said there’s nothing he’d rather do.
“The fondest memories I have from when I was a child are from hunting with my father and brothers,” he said. “I’ve tried to pass that along to my sons. The fact that they’re so passionate about the outdoors, and that they’re willing to go out there and hunt for days on end is fantastic. And hunting is something we can do together forever. It’s pretty special when you can carry those experiences from generation to generation.”
To have accomplished the wild-turkey grand slam at Jackson’s age might cause some youngsters to rest on their laurels, but he already has a bigger goal in mind.
“He has a long-term goal to try for the ‘super slam’ of all 29 North American big-game species,” Bobby said. “I figure he might be able to accomplish that by age 23 or 24. It would be pretty neat if we could both accomplish it together. Planning it and doing the trips together should be lots of fun.”