A ‘Grand Slam’ is considered one of the biggest feats in turkey hunting. Here’s how Niki Tilley accomplished it in a single season.
In turkey circles, harvesting a bird from each of the Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, and Merriam wild turkey subspecies is known as a ‘Grand Slam.’ It’s not an easy task, and to complete the cycle during a single season takes incredible determination, untold effort, and a willingness to log long hours on the road, not to mention in the blind.
Niki Tilley, a 23-year-old huntress from North Carolina, accomplished her dream goal of completing the turkey grand slam during the 2017 season. We recently talked with her to find out all the details.
WOS: When did you first get interested in turkey hunting?
Niki: My Grandpa started hunting with me when I was 12 years old. I always have loved the outdoors, hunting, and fishing. I grew up on a farm with my Grandparents where we raised cattle, horses, chickens, etc.. My Grandpa got me started in everything outdoors and taught me everything I know about hunting. After all the years of hunting turkeys believe it or not this year 2017 was my first year killing my first turkey ever! Now I have completed my single season grand slam!
Have you attempted the Turkey Grand Slam prior to this year?
This was my first year ever attempting the single season grand slam! Also my first year ever killing a turkey!
What was the motivating factor behind attempting the turkey grand slam?
My mom and papa are who motivated me to attempt the grand slam! I didn’t think it was going to be possible with all my traveling and the seasons in each state were getting close to ending. But my mom and papa pushed me and said no you CAN do it. My papa said he would be extremely proud of me to go after it so I changed some plans, made some arrangements, and got it done!
Which of the four birds was the most difficult or challenging to harvest?
Niki: Each bird that I hunted was extremely difficult. My North Carolina Eastern took us 12 long hours of running all over the NC mountains, my Texas Rio took me two days of running and chasing and also watching for snakes the whole time! My Florida Osceola took all day as well running and gunning, after we got busted by some cows! Finally within the last few minutes I was able to make it happen! My Washington State Merriam was probably my quickest and favorite hunt. I got off the plane at 1, was in the blind at 3, and shot the bird at 7:30!! I think the Merriams are the prettiest and it’s also my favorite because it was my last bird to get to complete my grand slam! So when I shot the bird I was just overwhelmed with joy and so proud of myself!
What did you harvest each bird with (bow/gun) and when?
I killed each Turkey with a gun. Florida Osceola: March 18th 2017; North Carolina Eastern: April 17th 2017; Texas Rio: May 4th 2017; Washington State Merriam: May 12th 2017.
What does it mean to accomplish a single season turkey grand slam? What was going through your mind when that final turkey flopped?
When that final turkey flopped, I can’t explain how excited and overwhelmed with emotions I was! I even cried! Something I have worked hard for all season, from state to state, had finally came to an exciting end! It is so incredible to be able to get all four birds in such different environments, states, and conditions. I am truly blessed!!!
Do you have any future ‘slams’ planned – or goals to accomplish in hunting in general?
With turkey hunting, I would like to go after my world slam and royal slam. But for this fall I am going to chase my dreams of big game hunting with bear, elk, mountain lion, etc.. Backpacking in the backcountry of the North West and Canada on foot and horseback is something I’ve dreamed of as a little girl watching movies and waiting for the moment I could do that one day!
Who would you like to thank for making the grand slam possible?
First I would like to thank the good Lord for allowing me to be healthy and able to travel and complete my goals and chase my dreams. I would also like to thank my family for always supporting me and being there for me. I would like to thank my friend Bill Turner with World Class Artistry in Florida where I got my Osceola, Dead End Game Calls (Mitch) in NC, Johnny Allen and family in Texas, and Beau Lyons with Dirty Birdy Off-Road Productions in Washington State!
A big thanks to Niki for taking the time to talk with us about her incredible accomplishment. And a tip of the Wide Open Space’s cap to you for following your dream – and making it happen.
Images Courtesy of Niki Tilley.
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