Hunting buddies ‘slam’ turkeys

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – When most people think about grand slams, a baseball stadium with roaring crowds usually spring to mind, but for a select few the only roar that’s heard comes from a shotgun and the only crowd that can be found is whatever happens to be crawling over their legs at the moment.

Like baseball players, turkey hunters can go their entire “careers” without a grand slam, then again, there’s always a few lucky ones.

In the Black Belt, two turkey-hunting partners both “slammed” this spring during the two-months of spring turkey season.

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Jane Watson of Newburn is the “new” turkey hunter in the group. The retired Southern Academy science teacher started chasing gobblers just two years ago. For her, it was a way to do something with her husband Byron.

“I wanted to beat him at something,” she said with a chuckle sitting on a small couch in Capps Taxidermy in Demopolis, her hunting partner Jaine Capps on the same couch.

Capps and Watson are two of 11 women to post the records with the National Wild Turkey Federation this year, and the only ones to do so in two months.

Capps staked out her claim to a royal grand slam with by killing six subspecies of the wild turkey and Watson earned a grand slam with the four North American varieties.

The North American sub species include the eastern wild turkey, Merriam’s wild turkey the Osceola or Florida wild turkey and the Rio Grande wild turkey. Add to that list for the royal slam Gould’s wild turkey, a Mexican sub species and the Ocellated wild turkey, a South American bird.

The duo’s 10 birds are on display now in Birmingham at a showing of mounts from around the state, but the story of how the birds ended up in North Alabama is a quick one.

The pair put 5,000 miles on Capps’ truck in just 10 days in a race against time and the elements, at one juncture having to trade mosquito repellant for cold-weather gear.

“It’s not a big deal if you have someone to call up the birds for you. All you have to do is shoot, but going in blind into an area is challenging. You have to find the turkeys before you can call them,” Watson said.

The pair uses box calls and slate calls, not having quite mastered the “diaphram” call that is used in the mouth.

Their turkey talk must be pretty good, though. The results are proof of that, but after taking the eastern birds

Watson’s in Perry County and Capps’ in Hale County – the hunting buddies took off for Leighi Acres, Fla. and the Flynt Bros. Cattle Company in search of Osceolas. It was in Florida the two discovered they couldn’t count together.

After calling in two jakes – a jake is a young male turkey – and two hens early, Capps started calling again, enticing two gobblers into gun range, one from the left, the other from the right.

“One-two-three, shoot” was the plan, Watson said. It didn’t work out that way. Watson downed her bird, but Capps missed, which really must have made the turkey mad because it attacked Watson’s gobbler as it lay dying. Capps was able to get off the killing shot and bag the Florida subspecies.

After that, it was on to Texas in search of a Rio Grande, which they found at the FTW Ranch near Barksdale, Texas.

It was Watson again drawing first blood.

“I killed mine and chased off the others so we had to change locations,” she said.

Action Outdoor Adventure near Hondo, Texas was the spot for Capps.

Virtually unaware of what had been happening in New Mexico while they were hunting in Texas, the two headed West in search of the Merriam’s subspecies, and into one of the state’s worst snowstorms.

“While we were hunting in Texas,

it was snowing in New Mexico,” Watson said.

By the time they arrived, 20 inches of snow blanketed the ground.

“I had to go to Wal-Mart to find some clothes,” Capps said.

Both women, of course, bagged their birds despite the conditions.

It was then southward for Capps, joined by her taxidermist husband Don.

Capps was able to take an Ocellated sub species on her first afternoon near Campeche, Yucatan. The bird wasn’t found until the next day. Don, also taking a bird, completed his royal slam.

“It took him five or six years, though,” Capps said. “I wanted to get the world in one year.”

The Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico was “rough” hunting, Capps said, but yielded a Gould’s turkey, the final jewel in the royal slam after having to hunt while holding on a branch to keep from sliding down into a 200-foot deep ravine.

“I cried and cried when that last bird fell. I could not believe I had killed all six birds,” Capps said.

The feats certainly will go down in the NWTF’s record books, but for the pair from the Black Belt, the season will forever be a reminder of the life lessons that can be learned from hunting.

“The Lord presented us a lot of opportunities,” Watson said.

Watson scored a grand slam this season when she killed the four North American subspecies of the wild turkey:

______ Eastern wild turkey ______ Florida wild turkey ______ Rio Grande wild turkey

______ Merriam’s wild turkey ______ Gould’s wild turkey _____ Ocellated wild turkey

2. Weight (weight of turkey, in pounds and ounces) ______ lbs. ______ oz.