With deer season still a recent memory and winter’s cold settling in, it may seem a bit premature to start planning for next year’s spring turkey season. If you plan on sticking to the local haunts, there will be plenty of time for that a few months down the line. But if you plan on traveling out of state, you might want to start now, especially if you’ve decided that 2020 will finally be your year to attempt a grand slam.

The grand slam, in turkey hunting jargon, involves harvesting one of each of the four subspecies or races of wild turkey found in the U.S. Each has a specific geographic range and some have their own peculiarities, so you’d be well advised to start planning now.

As it is often logistically the most difficult, and offers the earliest seasons, let’s start with the Osceola or Florida turkey. The Sunshine State has a monopoly on these birds, and they know it. The most challenging part is often finding a place to hunt. Unless you know a landowner, your best bet will be to retain the services of an outfitter, and expect to pay a premium.

Seasons start around the middle of March so you’ll want to get on this right away as good outfitters fill their available dates early. Then you’ll have to make all your travel and lodging arrangements. Licenses and permits are available over the counter, but don’t put that off too long either. Better safe than sorry.

Merriam’s wild turkeys can also be logistically challenging. They have a relatively limited range, mostly in the mountain states. The plus side is that these states also have a lot of public land. Still, you’ll want to do some homework on which particular parcels offer the best combination of high turkey and low hunter densities, or book a guided hunt. Here too, it’s a good idea to get your travel arrangements in order well in advance of a mid to late April trip. You should also check on licenses and permits as availability can be limited in some areas.

You have a little more time to get yourself in shape, but you’ll be glad you did. Merriam’s wild turkeys inhabit rugged, open terrain, and they cover a lot of ground in a day. So will you if you hope to find them. An average day’s hunt can cover five to 10 miles of rugged, often steep ground.

Rio Grande turkeys have a slightly wider distribution with the most popular destinations for hunters being Texas, Oklahoma, and western Kansas and Nebraska. Public land is always an option in western states, although access to good turkey hunting ground in the aforementioned ones can be very limited. Hiring a guide or paying a trespass fee is always a better option, especially if you want decent odds of success. Both are easier to come by and less expensive than for an Osceola hunt.

Rios have a reputation for being “dumb” and therefore easier to hunt, but don’t count on it. They can be every bit as tough as the other turkey subspecies, particularly as the seasons, which start in early to mid April, wind on. Depending on terrain, habitat and other variables of the particular destination you settle on, hunting conditions and tactics can vary widely. You may be sitting in a ground blind overlooking a field, roaming hundreds of acres of cactus or mesquite flats, or hiking rolling hills and breaks of cedar.

Last but not least is the Eastern. It’s easy to be over-confident knowing you can find them right outside your back door, or a few miles down the road. Don’t slack on your planning or preparation, especially if your goal is to complete your grand slam in a single season.

You don’t need to, though. There are no rules as to how long you take to punch all four tags, and many hunters take several years to fulfill their goal. You may only want to do one subspecies a year; it’s your call. Once you’re done, you can start planning your royal slam.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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