CHASIN' THE GOBBLE: Benton man makes turkey hunting history

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

The sport of hunting wild game of any kind can drive a person crazy. It is often that a hunter will put in hours upon hours of hard work in attempt to land a monster buck or banded duck.
It also is a reoccurrence that the desired game is but a faint memory following many more weeks, months or years of chasing such animals.
While turkey hunting can test a person’s sanity time and time again and in a number of ways, one Benton man has since mastered the art of bagging the bearded wonders, making history with his chase for the U.S. Super Slam.
“I have always loved turkey hunting,” Chad Parker said. “I played so much baseball growing up that I didn’t get to hunt as much as I wanted to. But when I had a few extra days around spring break, dad and I would load up and go to Mississippi or Georgia or Alabama.

“When I got finished playing baseball in college, I would travel each spring to hunt and couldn’t get enough of it. I would hit two, three or four states every spring.”

Recently, Parker completed his quest of killing a turkey in every state except Alaska where turkey hunting is not prohibited.
Parker said that he had never heard of the U.S. Super Slam until he and a friend’s dad were talking about someone that had recently completed the rare feat.

“I didn’t even know that was out there,” Parker said. “That was five springs ago. I told myself that I was going to do that.”
When Parker was a shot away from bagging number 49, only one thought ran through his mind.
“Don’t miss,” Parker said with a laugh. “I was in the upper peninsula of Michigan in a meadow and I had actually been looking at the turkey for an hour and a half.
“I wasn’t in position to call to him, I didn’t think, and finally they started moving. I made 20 yards on him and called and the hens started yelping and the whole flock come toward me.

“I was pinned down will all of the turkey within 40 yards of me. He was behind the one and only tree in full strut. He was at 17 yards and I called out at him hard but he wouldn’t pull out of his strut.”
Finally, Parker literally talked to him before pulling the trigger.
“I said ‘Hey, turkey’ and he raised his head,” Parker said. “At that time, it was another turkey and another state and I was as excited as I was on the second one.”
Parker had killed turkey in seven states when he learned of the Super Slam. It was at that point that Parker decided to try and add three or four new states each spring.
But the biggest turning point for Parker came in 2014 when he lost his brother at the age of 29.

“I looked at life a little bit different after that,” Parker said. “What good is a lifetime bucket list if you aren’t here to see it through?”
Parker would add 12 new states in the spring of 2015, bringing his total to 19.
At the start of 2017, Parker had trimmed his needed locations to 14.
“When I drew Nevada I said I was going to give myself an opportunity to end each state,” Parker said.
Nevada usually allows four nonresident turkey tags each year. However, in 2017, six tags were drawn with Parker obviously claiming one.
“It was some crazy scheduling, but I would schedule myself at least one day in each state,” Parker said.
The most treacherous of travel was when Parker decided to hit Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio and West Virginia in the span of four days with flights to each state.

“I didn’t kill the first day in Connecticut, but killed at daylight in Rhode Island the next day and then decided to drive 2 ½ hours and killed in Connecticut, got on a plane and killed one in West Virginia and Ohio,” Parker said. “At that point I had four states left but I knew I was done.”
So he thought.
Aside from the joy of turkey hunting, Parker always has included his dad in his journeys, including the final turkey of the chase. In his quest to be the eighth person to ever complete the Super Slam, Parker made sure his father was along for the ride.
“He was a suit-and-tie guy every day when I was younger and when the weekends would come he wanted to do something outdoors,” Parker said. “I fell in love with turkey hunting and our bonding comes from spending nights in the Ouachita National Forest in a tent.

“He would always plan to go on one trip with me each spring and this year he made two.”
Parker’s father was set to make the trip west for his son’s California and Oregon hunts, however, plans changed.
“When I killed in Nevada, I crossed the line and went and killed in California and then up to Oregon,” Parker said. “At that point, it looked like I had a chance to finish so dad booked to Wisconsin and Michigan with me.
“It is just something that we do together. We find a cure for all of the world’s problems when we are turkey hunting and we talk about stuff we won’t talk about at home.

“We are away from all of the hustle and bustle, stress and life in general. It is a safe place and a bonding place that he and I have in woods.”
Along with his dad’s support, Parker also is blessed with a loving wife that has fueled his desire every step of the way.
“Lindsey is absolutely the queen of all queens,” Parker said. “She is, without a doubt, the biggest cheerleader I have had through this whole thing. It looks like I just rolled through killing turkeys, but there were a lot of ups and downs along the way. She was my solid place that kept me pushing forward.

“It made it easy knowing that everything in my life at home was on solid ground. A lot of people that have done stuff like this experienced trouble at home, but it actually strengthened our relationship because of the support she gave me and continues to give me.
“Not one time in all of this was she negative toward it. Not once. It just says so much about her character and love for me and our family that she wants to support stuff that I want to do. She is very unselfish.”
The Parkers have a 4-year-old son, Cade.
During Parker’s hunts, a few states continued to give him fits as he trapesed across the nation.

“With only three states to go, I knew I had to get out of Utah and Arizona with kills,” Parker said. “It was number 47 in the chase for 49 and I could not find a turkey.
“I was on the upper rim of the Grand Canyon and I couldn’t find a track or make a turkey gobble. For the first time in this chase I thought this could be the one (that keeps me from completing it). I have always told myself to keep pushing until Hell freezes over and then keep pushing on ice.”
Parker said that the Arizona hunt began to weigh on him as the pressure continued to build.

“Finally, I killed by 7:30 the next morning,” he added. “Arizona was no doubt the toughest, mentally, on me.”
While capturing the Super Slam crown is exiting, Parker said that the 49th and final bird was not his most memorable.
“It was Connecticut or Ohio,” Parker said. “My back was against the wall in both places with weather and time ticking. But when I pulled the trigger in Ohio I had a lump in my throat from then until I pulled into Saline County.
“At that point, I knew I was going to complete it.”
Now that Parker has reached the peak of turkey hunting glory, he said he plans to relax and get back to the regular grind of turkey hunting, but on a lesser scale.

“I will never do that again, but I am a turkey hunter at heart and it is what I do,” Parker said. “It is a part of what defines me and makes me better at life because of the lessons you can learn from a turkey hunt.
“I am still going to go turkey hunting, but my son will be 5 in June and it is about teaching him to do it the right way. There will be a lot of time spent with him, but I will still go camping with my buddies, something I have put off the past couple of years.
“I look forward to a lot of that.”

Parker is a Benton High School graduate and a former standout Panther baseball player.
His feat of completing the slam makes him the second to do so this year, but first Arkansan to ever reach the mark.