canadian slam - turkey-slam-Jeff-2010Anticipation was high as we drove into the mountains in pre-dawn blackness with Kevin Jacks from Cranbrook in quest of a British Columbia Merriam’s turkey. I was there to attempt a Canadian Slam, which is harvesting the two subspecies of turkeys found in Canada, easterns and Merrriam’s.

BC is the only province with a non-resident season for Merriam’s, athough they’re also found in Alberta and Manitoba.

I’d already taken two easterns in Ontario a year earlier and chose the largest as the other half of my slam.

After deciding to try for my Canadian Slam, I contacted Rob Bishop, chairman of the Cranbrook NWTF chapter. He agreed to help me out and was on the road ahead of us, driving towards Creston, where we were going to hunt.

Scouting the day before, I’d seen an incredible number of deer and elk, actually more than I’d ever seen even in the western national parks. I didn’t see any turkeys, though.
Bishop had some of his committee members helping on my mission. One had a friend, Dennis Pal, who lives near Creston, where turkeys were seen regularly. We left Cranbrook early, and the blacks and blues of night were just starting to turn into shades of yellow and red that signalled daylight wasn’t far off when we arrived at Creston.

Dawn Sound-off
Waiting for Pal, we heard the gobbling start. We didn’t have too far to travel to reach a spot partway up the mountain where Pal had a blind set up in the red cedars. Behind us were the Purcell Mountains, their peaks still tipped in snow.

The first bird we heard was to my left. Another to my right started gobbling much closer. Pal scratched out a few yelps on his slate call. The gobbler answered. I added a few of my own on a box call, to be cut off again. I’d heard Merriam’s have a reputation to be more vocal than eastern turkeys and these birds were proving this to be true. The bird kept answering our calls as it moved closer.

Then, we heard hens yelping. Still, the gobbler continued to move closer. At one point it was directly behind us, spitting and drumming. I only had about 20 yards of visibility behind me and couldn’t see it.

This bird faded away, but gobbling continued all around us for an hour. Then, about 7:30 a.m., we heard a lot of gobbling in front of us. Unknown to us until we heard a gun shot, there was another hunter in the woods a few hundred yards off. Before the report of the shot had ceased to echo, a hen ran by, coming from the last area we’d heard gobbling. A couple of deer went bounding by, followed by another hen. Then, a third bird followed about 25 yards out.

The Slam
“It’s got a beard,” Pal whispered. “Shoot.”

Registering a Slam

To turkey hunters, a Grand Slam means harvesting the four subspecies of turkeys found in Canada and the United States: eastern, Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and Osceola.

The Canadian Slam is a more recent addition to the five different slam types that can be earned. Slam records are managed by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), and one of the neat things about a Canadian Slam is few people have completed one. In fact, mine was only the second.

I did and ended up with a Merriam’s gobbler with an 8.5-inch beard and spurs just shy of an inch long.

During breakfast I talked to Bishop about his frustrations with the BC government in regards to turkey management. Currently, there isn’t a turkey-tag system in BC, something Bishop has lobbied for. He has difficulty even getting the government to recognize wild turkeys as game species.

The NWTF has offered to run a trap-and-transfer programme. “We have the training, traps, and money to do it,” said Bishop. They’ve been denied permission because the birds aren’t indigenous to the Pacific northwest, but were trapped and transferred there previously. Bishop said birds arrived by crossing the border and by the province bringing them in.

I often hear Ontario hunters grumbling about turkey management here. The BC situation seems much worse. Perhaps we should appreciate what we have.

Hunting BC Birds
Turkeys inhabit the lower mainland of BC between the Alberta border and Okanagan Valley. Birds are mostly found in valleys and foothills. There’s a lot of crown land in BC where turkeys are found, and Bishop says getting permission to hunt on private land shouldn’t be an obstacle. Hunting with an outfitter is another option.

Season and Licence
The BC spring turkey season is April 15 to May 15, with a one-bird limit. Ontario hunters need a non-resident Canadian hunting permit ($75) and an upland-bird hunting permit ($50).

Kettle River Outfitters
Oliver, BC

Sawtooth Outfitters
Sparwood, BC

This article was originally published in the May 2010 issue of Ontario OUT OF DOORS. Subscribe.