by Jim Shockey
A “Grand Slam”, in baseball, is a phrase nestled deep in the heart of that sport’s vernacular, if the words that describe an act can be iconic, this phrase is. In hunting circles, the phrase was adopted for the first time by famed outdoor writer Grancel Fitz, sometime back in the middle of the last century. He used it to describe when a hunter has taken one of each of the North American wild sheep species that are recognized by the venerated Boone and Crockett Club. These are the Stone’s sheep, Dall’s sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and desert sheep. To date, slightly more than 1,000 hunters have completed the Grand Slam using a rifle, a dozen or so have done so with archery and two have completed the Grand Slam with muzzleloader (including this author.)
Just prior to the turn of the last century, the term “Super Slam” came into being, a phrase that became the trademark of bowhunting great, Chuck Adams; the first hunter to complete the Super Slam using only bow and arrow. Chuck did what only very few archery hunters have been able to accomplish since, he hunted every species of North American big game (that there is an open hunting season for) with his bow and arrow and managed, through brute determination and extraordinary skill, to take a representative example of each species! Although there is no official records keeping body that keeps records of the number of rifle hunters who have completed their Super Slams, the number is believed to be less than 100. Only one muzzleloader hunter has completed their Super Slam so far (this author being that hunter.)
The pinnacle of all the hunting “Slams” is the Ultimate Slam. To achieve the Ultimate Slam, a hunter must not only take one or more of each of the species of North American big game recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club (and in so doing complete the Grand Slam and Super Slam) but must at least one animal of each species that they take, must be large enough to qualify for the appropriate record book.
In other words, if a hunter uses a bow and arrow, for that hunter to attain an Ultimate Slam, they must take at least one of each species of North American big game large enough to qualify for the Pope and Young record book. Only one hunter has ever done this, a dedicated archer by the name of Tom Hoffman. By the same token, if a hunter uses a high power rifle, they must take one of each species large enough to qualify for the Boone and Crockett record book, and again only one hunter has ever done this, the late Basil Bradbury. Same for using a muzzleloader, at least one of each species hunted must be large enough to qualify for the Longhunter record book. Only one hunter has done this, the author of this article.
THE OTHER SPECIES SLAMS
The “Grand Slam” mentioned above, is considered to be a “species slam”, sheep to be exact, but there are other “slams” for other species. The “Elk Slam” for example, is attained when a hunter takes one of each of the elk species that can presently be hunted in North America. In the case of elk, there are actually three species recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club, the best known of which is the Rocky Mountain elk. The other two species are the Tule elk, only found in California, and the Roosevelt elk, found along the coast of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.
The Tule elk is the smallest of the recognized North American elk species and was nearly extinct one hundred years ago. It is believed that the herd, originally numbering in the tens of thousands in the early 1800’s, dropped to a low of only a few breeding pairs before legislation was enacted to conserve the last of these diminutive creatures. Hunters working voluntarily and ranchers concerned with conservation, worked together to bring the numbers back to a point where a hunting season was opened in the last 20 years. Although the tags are scarce, a hunter wishing to complete any of the major slams or the elk slam, must hunt Tule elk.
Roosevelt elk are the largest of the elk species; weighing in at over 1,000 pounds, these massive animals rival the moose species in size. The antlers on a Roosevelt are characteristically crowned, meaning they grow extra sticker points beyond the fourth dagger point, that are considered to be “typical” for measuring purposes. Their antlers are also generally more massive than their inland cousins the Rocky Mountain elk, but they do not generally have main beams or points that are as long. They are difficult to hunt, as they tend to prefer deep black coastal rain forest to more open country.
Besides the “Elk Slam”, there is the “Deer Slam”, “Caribou Slam”, “Moose Slam” and “Bear Slam.” Each self-explanatory, these slams can only be attained by a hunter taking one of each of the species of recognized big game within each category. To take a “Deer Slam” for instance, a hunter must tag up on a whitetail, mule deer, Columbia blacktail, Sitka blacktail and Coues deer, five species in all. To do this, the hunter will have likely travelled from Alaska to Old Mexico, and will have hunted temperatures ranging from 30 below Zero to 110 above!
There are three species of moose, five species of caribou and four species of bear in North America, or at least that is the way it is right now. As new species are recognized and former species are removed from the list, the actual number of animals a hunter must hunt to attain each “Slam” can change. So too can the specific species change. As an example, up until the mid 1900’s, hunters were allowed to hunt the tiny pure white Peary’s caribou, found only in the high Arctic. Dropping herd numbers resulted in this species being removed from the “Slam” list, meaning only four caribou species were needed for a “Caribou Slam”, this for only a short time though. In the late 1900’s, the Central Canada Barrenground caribou was recognized as a new species by the various records keeping organizations. This bumped the number back up to five caribou for a “Caribou Slam.”
DEGREES OF DIFFICULTY
There is much argument as to which of the “Slams” is toughest to attain, basically a “never the twain shall meet” discussion. Sheep hunters will swear that their “Slam” is the most difficult to get, while other hunters will argue for their pet “Slam.” The fact is, the most difficult is the “Ultimate Slam”, followed by the “Super Slam.” To get either, the hunter will have had to attain every other species slam.
In terms of individual species, the “Sheep Slam”, is certainly very high in “degree of difficulty”, cost alone makes it so. A desert sheep can cost upwards of $50,000 to hunt, not to actually take either, just to hunt! This, plus the limited number of tags available and terrain they live in, makes the “Sheep Slam” very difficult indeed. Likely the “Bear Slam” is second in order of difficulty. The reason is the Polar bear. This white bear has to be hunted from dogsled in the most brutal conditions known to mankind. It is less of a hunt in many ways and more of an ordeal!
If just attaining the “Slams” were not enough, some hunters increase the challenge by using primitive weapons such as bows and arrows and muzzleloaders, or single shot rifles or rifles without scopes. Some also put self-imposed minimum size restrictions on the animals they will take. For the “Ultimate Slam”, the hunter will only touch the trigger if the animal is large enough to make the appropriate record book. And finally some hunters attempt to complete the “Slams” within the shortest period of time possible, or within a set period of time.
Ultimately though, no matter “which” and no matter “how”, all the “Slams” are simply a way for a goal-oriented hunter to spend more glorious days in the wild lands!