A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam

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The following appears in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Super 10 1 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
Being based in Alaska has allowed Brian Watkins to harvest many of the big game animals making up a “Super 10” slam. But while he was able to stay in the Last Frontier to check Dall sheep, barren-ground caribou, moose and musk ox off his list, Watkins also went to the Lower 48 to help finish it. (BRIAN WATKINS)
Super 10 2 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
Super 10 3 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
Super 10 4 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam

BY BRIAN WATKINS

The Grand Slam Ovis Club started recording what is known as the North American Slam back in the 1970s. To record the slam, one must harvest all 29 recognized North American big game species.

The 29 animals can be divided into 10 categories, known as the “Super 10.” The categories include moose, caribou, deer, bear, bison/musk ox, elk, sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn and mountain lion. This is often considered the “mini- slam,” as a hunter must actively hunt all categories of animals in North America.

It just so happens that Alaska is home to species representing eight of the 10 categories – black, brown, grizzly and polar bear; musk ox and bison; Yukon-Alaskan moose; Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk; Sitka blacktail deer; mountain goat; Dall sheep; and barren- ground and woodland caribou.

Alaska affords the opportunity to tag out on eight game categories, most of which can be taken with an over-the- counter tag, with a few variables involved. The bison is a draw-only hunt, and there is limited opportunity for registration tags for musk ox and elk. There are draw tags available for all species. The woodland caribou is currently unable to be hunted due to declining numbers.

CONVENIENT AND AFFORDABLE

With the opportunities Alaska has to offer, being a resident helps hunters get extremely close to the Super 10 without breaking the bank. My personal chase for the Super 10 didn’t come to fruition until 2014 when I harvested my first moose. Up to that point, I had harvested whitetail deer (Pennsylvania), Sitka blacktail, caribou, mountain goat, black bear and brown bear. I was suddenly halfway to the Super 10 without realizing it.

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Super 10 8 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
A diehard bowhunter, Watkins has “added a new goal to harvest the Super 10 with a bow. Currently, I am sitting at nine of the 10 – with only an elk left on my to-do list.” (BRIAN WATKINS)

I set the goal to harvest the Super 10 by age 35. At the time I was 26. This would allow me to take a new species every other year.

My past stories in these pages have gone over all my hunting within Alaska, from road-based hunts to fly-outs and boat trips. Flying out is my favorite, but for cost-base hunters road hunts can be just as successful. I have harvested deer, sheep, goats, moose and caribou while boot hunting after driving to an area.

GOING SOUTH FOR SPEED GOATS

This past fall, with two animals to go, I headed south to the Lower 48 to complete the Super 10. My good friend Trevor Embry and I drew Montana pronghorn tags. I figured it would be an easy hunt. Boy, was I wrong. We were hunting public-land bucks, and they are skittish. Their eyesight is better than any other animal I’ve pursued. One of the guys hunting down there said their eyesight is like always having eight- power binoculars.

Our plan was to drive with onX maps and pick out public land, then glass and spot and stalk any animals on that land. But soon we figured out that if we saw a group of antelope, we had to maintain speed and pass them. Then, when out of sight, we could park and hike back to see if there were any bucks in the group. If you so much as let off the gas, the entire group would take off out of sight.

I snuck into 60 yards of herds multiple times, but as soon as I kneeled up for a shot, the group was off and running before I could even get my pins in sight.

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Frustrations grew throughout the week as stalk after stalk was blown. Patience was the name of the game. After nearly 15 futile stalks, it came together with a buck chasing a doe right in front of me. I didn’t even need to stalk. We saw the group and were

getting into position as a buck ran directly past us and stopped broadside at 35 yards.

Super 10 7 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
Watkins scored this Sitka blacktail on Kodiak Island. (BRIAN WATKINS)

THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT

With number 9 successful, it was time to plan number 10: mountain lion! I knew the most efficient way to hunt mountain lions was with dogs. I booked a trip to Nevada for this past spring and went with Canyons West Guide Service (canyonswest.com).

The hunting style was a blast. The guide had four-wheelers with tracks on them, and we would drive mountain roads looking to cut a set of lion tracks. It was blowing 40 to 50 mph gusts while we were there, so cutting tracks proved to be a bit of a challenge. On day one, we cut a set from the evening prior, but they were pretty blown out. We let the dogs loose and climbed up a mountain in pursuit. It seemed as though the dogs treed the cat, but by the time we got there the cat must have busted out and climbed up into the cliffs, where neither the dogs or us could get to.

The next day, we set out for a new area. We cut a fresh set of tracks and drove the machines into the valley where they went. As we sat there deciding if the tracks were from a cat big enough to chase, we saw four deer on the hillside.

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We figured the cat was actively stalking the deer. As we sat and discussed things, I saw the cat creeping along about 600 yards away! It was awesome. We let the dogs out after the cat and they treed it back across from where we’d just driven through.

We skinned and quartered that lion. That afternoon we went further into the mountains. My dad was along with me and had a tag as well. We didn’t cut anything fresh, so we planned to head back for the day. As we did, we cut a set of tracks we had missed along the way out. We set the dogs out and after a half hour they had the cat treed about 20 yards away from where we had just ridden past. These cats are elusive. That hunt completed my Super 10!

Super 10 5 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
Watkins thought bagging a Lower 48 pronghorn would be easy, but nearly 15 unsuccessful stalks taught him otherwise. Eventually, he was in the right place at the right time, taking this buck near Missoula, Montana, last fall. (BRIAN WATKINS)

NEXT UP: SUPER 10 BY BOW

In 2017, I joined the Alaskan Bowhunters Association and befriended a group of people who are predominately bowhunters. I added a new goal to harvest the Super 10 with a bow. Currently, I am sitting at nine of the 10 – with only an elk left on my to-do list. I have since joined the board for ABA and hunt predominately with a bow myself.

I’ll get that elk eventually. ASJ

Super 10 6 A Hunter Scores A Perfect 10: The North American Slam
A great father-son hunt with his dad Tom in Nevada helped Brian check mountain lion off North America’s Super 10 list. (BRIAN WATKINS)
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>