Editor's note: For today's #ThrowbackThursday, we're heading back to August 2009, when young Josh Betts sent us this exciting turkey-hunting tale.
It started when my dad and I were watching turkey hunting on TV and they were talking about getting the Grand Slam. I told my dad that I would like to do that. So we started looking on the Internet for public ground to hunt in other states. Each state’s website is different; some tell what type of wildlife you can hunt and even how good the hunting is for each type. You can find out how much it costs, the permits you need, and some licenses or permits can be bought online. One other thing we found out was most states let youths hunt at a discount or for free.
We picked Oklahoma to hunt the Rio Grande subspecies. It was fairly close and I had never been to Oklahoma. We got on their website and looked at what we needed to hunt out of state. On the site we found that each area has a wildlife biologist. Dad called one and he was a lot of help. He told us what areas might have turkeys, sent us maps and told us where we could camp.
After we found all the information we needed, we were off to Oklahoma. I don’t know if you have ever been to Oklahoma or not, but everyone out there seems to have a storm cellar…for a reason. The whole time we were there, I don’t think the wind got less than 30 m.p.h. We got up that first morning and we could barely hear the turkeys gobbling because of the wind. My dad and I decided to split up from my dad’s friend. We only heard one gobbler in that area all morning. We decided to grab a bite to eat, and move to a different location. While we were eating, a storm started rolling in. We were sitting in the tent finishing our lunch and it started getting really bad. It only lasted about 30 minutes or so, and then the sun came back out. We needed to get some more supplies, so we went to a little gas station, which was the only place around for miles. When we got there, there was nobody inside. But we could hear people talking from inside this big walk-in cooler. My dad asked if they were open for business, and the lady was surprised that we were there. She asked where we had come from, and we told her that we were camped on the government ground down the road. That’s when she told us a tornado had just come through the area! We asked if there were supposed to be any more storms coming through the area, and she said no. So we went back so I could get a turkey.
We had another spot picked out on the map, but we knew it was going to be a long walk to get to it. We walked into the area, did some calling, and glassed open areas for birds. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, we got a bird to answer. We set up on the other side of a creek, and we could tell the bird was heading our way. All of a sudden I saw its head pop over the hill, and then another head popped up! I had two jakes on the hill in front of me. I did some soft calling, and they started walking straight towards me. When the birds got in range, I took the closest one. It had a 6-inch beard, ½-inch spurs and weighed 18 pounds, but by the time we got back to the truck it felt like it weighed 50!
It was four days full of walking all over Oklahoma, but in the end it was worth it. Our next trip was to Mississippi, where we camped and hunted on public ground and I was able to take my Eastern turkey. I was 12 when we went to Oklahoma and 13 when we went to Mississippi. It may be harder to hunt turkeys on public ground but it can be done.