by Karen Mehall Philips - Friday, April 18, 2014
It’s time to savor the slam for NRA President Jim Porter, who just dropped subspecies No. 4—the Merriam’s—at New Mexico’s Vermejo Park Ranch! Waking up to eight inches of snow and experiencing two failed morning setups made success all the sweeter at 12:20 p.m. when he put his shotgun bead on this strutting gobbler as it courted its hens. The impact of his Remington Versamax sent the bird right into the creek. Not a minute later, Porter had retrieved the soaked 4-year-old, 18-pounder and was admiring its 7 1/2-inch beard and super-sharp 3/4 inch spurs.
Our guide, David Winebark, knows how to scramble and find birds, and though he has been putting us on turkeys since Tuesday, the setups just didn’t pan out—until today. When Winebark spotted this gobbler along the creek, he and Porter made a plan and inched their way along until they got within 40 yards. This was no easy feat by the way, considering Merriam’s live in some wide-open country and a turkey’s eyesight runs rings around ours!
Not only did the snow make for an interesting turkey-hunting scenario for Porter, who hails from the flatter and much warmer state of Alabama, but it was a symbol of the diversity hunters experience when they go for the four species that comprise the grand slam. I wonder if Porter could have guessed that a quest that began in the Sunshine State of Florida for Osceola—amid the swamps, pines and palmettos—would lead to chasing bird No. 4 in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment while trekking through snow at 8,000 feet with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range as a backdrop.
To sum up the grand slam, Porter certainly covered his bases. Not many of us can say we dropped four turkeys over eight total days of hunting--let alone when they're four different subspecies--starting with the Osceola in Florida, the eastern in Alabama, the Rio Grande in Texas and the Merriam's in New Mexico. Each hunt was equally special and unique. As he prepares to head for the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Ind., Apr. 25-27, I’m betting he’ll pause on the show floor from time to time to recount visions of a Florida swamp, a woods full of Alabama oaks, a vast Texas prairie and a certain patch of ponderosa pines in New Mexico. Congratulations to our super slammer!
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