The Black Hills are among some of the last remaining symbols of the Western frontier. The Merriam’s birds that occupy the Hills are as wild as turkeys come. I would almost argue it fair to call them a subspecies of their own.
Technically, I lack only the Osceola subspecies to complete my grand slam. I’ve killed easterns in the Midwest, a Rio in central Texas and a Merriam’s in northwest Nebraska. But for me, the Merriam’s portion of my grand slam—an accomplishment I actively pursue—will only be fulfilled when I take a Black Hills bird.
My judgment of Black Hills birds is derived primarily from stories I’ve heard and things I’ve read/watched. I did have a brief opportunity to chase Black Hills birds during my northwest Nebraska hunt, but it was limited. However, we witnessed one strutter showing off his white-tipped tail fan on a picturesque ponderosa pine hillside. Since then, that image has recurred in my mind on a regular basis, and I’ve become obsessed with the idea of outwitting a Black Hills bird.
After much anticipation, I’ll get my chance. My friend and I are heading to Custer, South Dakota, to meet up with about a dozen of my cohorts from local Minnesota chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation. I don’t know quite what to expect, but knowing those guys, it should make for quite the experience.