As a woman in the hunting industry, it was difficult to find a place where "no man has gone before." But when Knight introduced the new TK-2000 muzzleloading shotgun
, I realized there was a place I could make my mark. My goal was to become the first woman to achieve a World Slam on turkey with a Knight in-line muzzleloading shotgun in a single season! This gun was getting exceptional patterns and this would be an excellent opportunity to put it to the test!
No stranger to gun or field, I'd learned the ethics and skills of hunting from both of my parents while growing up on my family's farm just outside of Centerville, Iowa.
After weeks of careful planning (and endless turkey-calling practice that nearly drove my family nuts), I finally began my quest. But before I left, Brian Harrington, our General Manager at Knight, stopped by and wished me luck. His parting words were "Michele don't come back until you're done!"
The first leg of my quest began with Jim Zumbo and Gary Robertson near San Antonio, Texas in pursuit of the Rio Grande turkey. Being an Iowa farm girl, I wasn't prepared for the 6 1/2 foot rattlesnake that greeted me at the back door of the hunting lodge, so Gary loaned me a pair of his gaiters before we headed out to roost some birds.
The first day found us hunting in temperatures over 90 degrees amid a flock of uncooperative turkeys. The second day we crept into turkey territory under the cover of heavy fog. As Gary called, I sat ready, my Knight shotgun propped on my knees. Finally, two toms came rushing in to claim their female prize. A few seconds later, my smoke belching TK2000 found its mark on my first Rio Grande longbeard.
As I said good-bye to my new-found friends later that day, Jim Zumbo whispered in my ear, "Look out for the gators in Florida." All I could do was look at him with terror in my eyes because I knew he was serious!
I returned home to regroup, before my next hunt. As I stepped into the Knight factory the next day, our engineering manager, Eric Hengstenberg and designer of the TK2000, was anxious to hear how the gun performed. I assured him that the gun had shot flawlessly as I bagged my first Rio Grande! Eric was as proud of his design as a father is of his newborn child.
My week-long Florida hunt for the wary Osceola turkey was one of the toughest hunts I'd ever been on, but it was also the most unforgettable. Not only was I forced to hunt through and around alligator-infested swamps, but I'd also done more belly crawling during the hunt than I'd done during my entire infancy! But it was well worth it, because in the end, I bagged my bird with one shot!
To achieve the third leg of my World Slam, I traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in pursuit of the Merriam's turkey, where the weather took a turn for the worse. I barely noticed the cold as I crawled on my belly in the freezing rain and sleet in pursuit of my quarry. I was on a quest, and nothing would stop me from achieving my goal. Late in the day, the flock of turkeys we'd tried all day to ambush spotted us and made a dash for cover. In a last-ditch effort, I yelped with my voice, and the gobbler hesitated just long enough to give me a shot. I'd gotten my Merriam's gobbler!
My confidence now running high from three successes with the new TK-2000 shotgun, I headed for my family's farm to finish the fourth leg of my World Slam with the harvest of a big Eastern turkey. It wasn't easy. Three rainy days later, I'd finally harvested a big 26-lb. 9-oz. gobbler. Incredibly, my Knight and I had completed my Grand Slam in only 25 days!
My most extreme hunt was deep into the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, to harvest the elusive Ocellated species. The paperwork alone took nearly a year before I had permission to enter the country with my frontstuffer and ammunition. Hunting the Ocellated is done quite differently since the toms of this species don't gobble, they drum and sing, and the hens are mute, so calling isn't an option. Because of the thick jungle floor, birds must be taken while still on their roost.
After a long trek on a dark jungle trail amidst the sounds of huffing jaguar and screaming monkeys, I finally got my chance at an Ocellated in the pre-dawn light. And what a beautiful specimen it was, too! With this fifth turkey, I had achieved a Royal Slam, and had only one leg to go to complete my World Slam!
I soon found myself high in the beautiful Sierra Madras mountains of northern Mexico in pursuit of the Gould's turkey with my longtime friend Verona Inabinette. On the second day of the hunt, Verona was the first to harvest a bird. Surprisingly enough, only a few minutes later, I, too, had harvested a beautiful Gould's tom - from the exact same spot as Verona - and had finally achieved my World Slam on turkeys, with my Knight TK-2000..... and I had done it in a season!
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