Friday, November 11, 2011

Hunting Trophy Turkey in Nebraska

Hunting Meriam's Turkeys in Nebraska with Scott Croner!
© 2009-2011 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Hunting Trophy Merriam's Turkey

While pecking away at the keyboard some time ago, I came upon fellow Outdoor Bloggers Summit member Scott Croner’s Blog, Nebraska Hunting Company. I meandered off to his company website,, to see what it was all about. I am always curious what fellow bloggers do when they are not beating the keys off the keyboard. Makes me feel like I know everyone a little better.

As it turns out, Scott is an outfitter based in Nebraska and covers several of the Midwest states in his pursuit of American big game, waterfowl, and turkey. Not only that, but we had some interesting acquaintances in common, but more on that later.

Scott has some great pictures of his clients on his website, and on the left hand side is a beautiful turkey that one of his clients harvested. Big turkey too, as far as I can tell.

But before I get into what caught my eye, I think a little bit of turkey talk information is in order! You would be surprised at how much there is to know! I certainly was.

There are two species and four subspecies of turkeys.

Eastern Photo Credit: WL McCoy
There’s the Eastern Wild Turkey. He’s your garden-variety turkey that you see all over the place except on opening day of turkey season, or for that matter the rest of it too. Since the eastern wild turkey ranges the farthest north, individuals can also grow to be among the largest of any of the subspecies. The adult male, can be as tall 4 feet (!) at maturity and weigh 20 pounds plus. As an aside, the turkey came in second as the bird of the National Seal. (They say Ben Franklin was besides himself when they told him the news! Legend has it he said, “$&!% that Jefferson!”)

Osceola Image Credit: CL Evans
These are my own hometown turkeys. The Osceola is named for the famous Seminole Chief, Osceola. They are a bit smaller than the eastern variety and live in the oak and palmetto hammocks where they thrive on palmetto bugs, acorns and palmetto berries, the slash pine woods, and the swampy habitats of Florida. (Basically everywhere else on the southern two thirds of the peninsula.)

Rio Grande Image Credit: TwoTom
The Rio Grande subspecies lives adjacent to what’s left of the Rio Grande. But they are found as far north as Kansas, usually by water. The Rio Grande turkeys are comparatively pale and copper colored, and they are awful long legged compared to their cousins; sort of like that redheaded girl in middle school that you were scared of.

Merriam's Image Credit: Alice Outwater
Further north still, and probably the handsomest (if you don’t include the fellows from south of the border), is the Merriam. This species is most at home in mountainous wooded regions, and it has been successfully stocked in areas far away from its original range in the southern mountains of Western America.

Gould's Image Credit: Ornitholoco
The Goulds, named after J. Gould who, I guess, discovered them in 1856 during his Mexican road trip in search of artisanal agave tequila. The Goulds are pretty rare at about 800 or so in the US, though a substantial population lives in Mexico. Arizona and New Mexico offer limited hunting opportunities for the Gould’s wild turkey, while stocking from Mexico continues to increase their numbers in the South Western US.

Ocellated Image Credit Real Turkeys
The prettiest of them all is the Ocellated turkeys. They are their own species and do not have any sub-species. Both male and female ocellated turkeys have beautiful greenish-bronze iridescent feathers, but neither the male nor female have a beard. Their tails feathers have a blue spot that terminates in orange at the ends, and the head and neck is also pale blue with bright orange warts. They live in the tropical forests of the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. They are truly a remarkable and beautiful bird.

Now I have always known turkey hunters to be a little obsessed. Box calls, slate calls, glass calls, owl hooters (Hooters? Who knew?), camouflage, gilliesuits, blinds, special chokes, shotguns, knee-pads, and shells in different lengths, sizes colors and loads. And that doesn’t include the turkey bowhunters!

I had no idea how far the turkey madness went.

Curiosity peaked more than was probably good for me, I found the National Wild Turkey Federation website. Much to my delight it was a virtual warehouse of information, chuck full of all sorts of turkey stuff. Single-handedly, they have managed to complicate the relatively simple idea of killing a turkey, and elevated into well nigh an art form.

I was entranced and enthralled by it immediately.

By now it was getting late while I was reading all of this, and I came to the “Slam” page. Logically I assumed that this was the recipe page where turkey, egg, and pancake met. But, much to my surprise and glee, what I found was the Holy Grail of turkey hunting aficionados. The Slams my friends, are the different levels of madness that one can attain by hunting the different subspecies of turkeys! And you get a certificate (Suitable for framing!) commemorating the event and a pin for your lapel! All that is required is membership in the National Wild Turkey Federation , and the turkeys.

These are the Slams that NWTF awards:
  • Grand Slams consists of the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam's and Osceola (Florida) birds
  • Royal Slams is the four subspecies listed above in addition to the Gould's bird
  • World Slams include all five subspecies listed above in addition to the Ocellated wild turkey
  • The Mexican Slam consists of the following birds harvested in Mexico only: Rio Grande, Gould's and Ocellated. Of course you are required to survive the experience. No posthumous awards issued.
  • The Canadian Slam consists of harvesting the Eastern and Merriam's bird in the following provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta or British Columbia, and then serving them with thick sliced bacon.

Unlike many other feats of huntsmanship, like hunting Marco Polo sheep with a spear and loincloth, this one is a relatively attainable goal. The NWTF maintains records of the registered turkeys, and when you complete a NWTF Slam you receive a slam certificate for each slam you complete, you receive the distinctive wild turkey record slam pin for each of your slams, and they put you up on their Slam Website! And more importantly you do not have to kill all the turkeys in the same year. So this allows you to plan a great adventure far into the future with your family members or friends. That’s just Slamming!

So of course now I am all crazy about getting turkeys. I have always been interested, but now… I’m obsessed… must get calls…must get more camo…

Sorry, lost my train of thought. Phew! It’s worse than I thought.

Well this brings me back to Scott and Nebraska Hunting Company. While kicking around his site I saw a fascinating turkey. During the 2009 spring turkey hunt, one of Scott’s clients, Mr. Todd Ried, harvested a melanistic or black color phase Merriam’s turkey! As you can tell the turkey is almost completely black, a stunning and exceptional trophy indeed! Not only is the Merriam one of the lesser-harvested turkeys, but to get one in a color phase is just unbelievable.

Todd Ried with his all-black melanistic Merriam's trophy!

Melanistic mutations occur in almost all creatures from fish to humans. It is much like albinism but not as hazardous to the animal’s health as being all white in the dark green woods! Birds in particular have several other color mutations that can occur, including blue, yellow, and red. Red, or more appropriately copper or rust, is occasionally seen in turkeys.

I want one. In a full mount, flying, so I can take up even more room in our miniscule apartment!

Tom H., Scott C., and Warren P.
I called Scott up to inquire about his turkey hunting concessions (leases) and the general availability and the possibility of collecting a Merriam’s. Scott “Turkey Man” Croner told me of this past season, and I am not kidding you, I was taken aback by his success ratio. I have read and talked with enough hunters to know how difficult turkey hunting can be. The number of clients and the number of birds taken was simply phenomenal. I have to admit I was a little skeptical, but after checking his references and talking to several people, I have concluded that he is a very talented outfitter and his concessions are fantastic! Having good concessions is very important. Good concessions have good habitat and that is what makes or breaks a turkey population.

I called Scott back and we did a phone interview, a TROC first by the way. I have been so impressed by his good character, integrity, and know how, that I will definitely be booking with him when the time comes for me to collect my Merriam’s.

…and the Snow goose.

The turkey is going to need some company.

J Scott Croner
Nebraska Hunting Company
Nebraska Hunting Company Merriam's Turkey Hunting
Mobile: 402.304.1192

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Albert A Rasch
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS
The Hunt Continues...