May 20, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Hunting used to be a way for Dawn Branton and Kristi Brown to find time to spend with their husbands.
Now their time tracking turkeys, deer, and antelope has become so much more.
Not only has hunting helped them build a strong friendship, but it also has helped the women achieve a special honor.
Last month in the Sierra Madre mountains in Chihuahua, Mexico, Branton and Brown killed their final turkey to complete their World Slams.
The National Wild Turkey Federation lists five types of slams: grand, royal, world, Mexican, and Canadian. Each refers to hunters killing certain subspecies of turkeys.
Securing a World Slam means Branton and Thomas have killed the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam''s, Osceola (Florida), and Gould''s birds in addition to the Ocellated wild turkey.
Karen Cavender of the NWTF said Branton is one of 21 women who have registered their World Slams with the organization. She said Brown hasn''t registered her kills with the group.
"I don''t think we initially started turkey hunting thinking we are going to go for the world slam. I didn''t even know what it was," Brown said. "Over time, and as my husband, Steve, and probably Scott, (Dawn''s husband) too, became interested in the world slam, it trickled down to us. We thought it would be neat for two women to do this."
Brown first started hunting in 1992, but she said it wasn''t until she battled a problematic pregnancy and cancer that she really got involved with hunting.
In 2003, Brown developed Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD), a group of diseases that begin when abnormal placental cells grow in the uterus after conception. After losing her baby, Brown said the abnormal cells metastasized and she battled cancer for about four and a half months. She had surgery and chemotherapy to help her fight the cancer. Five years later she has a clean bill of health.
Brown, who lives in Starkville and operates a marketing and consulting business, said hunting helps her "live life to the fullest" and allows her to spend time with her husband and friends like Branton.
She said she knew of Branton, who owns a hair dressing salon in Starkville, but didn''t meet her until after their husbands met while on a turkey hunt in Missouri.
Since meeting, the families have spent many hours in many local and faraway places tracking animals and building memories.
"It makes me want to be a better person and a better hunter knowing I have somebody with similar interests outside of that to support me and to encourage me," Brown said. "That makes it that much fun for me."
Branton grew up in a family that hunted and learned to appreciate the sport even more from her husband, who has registered a Royal and a World Slam with the NWTF. She said once she and Brown started the World Slam they knew they had to complete it.
It still took a little prompting from her son, Colter, 13, to get her to finish.
"Once he got his (World Slam) he said, ''You only lack the one from Mexico and you need to promise me you will try to complete it,'' so I did," Branton said.
The hunt to complete the World Slam didn''t begin with promising signs.
Stationed in a hunter''s blind early in the morning, the plan was for Brown to shoot first at the turkey. But Brown said the turkey came to Branton''s side of the blind first. When Branton shot and missed the four hunters decided to change pairings to give the women a better chance at securing their World Slams.
It didn''t take long after the shuffle for the women, who used 12-gauge guns, to complete their journeys.
"When I shot that afternoon and got my turkey, he ended up being farther away than the one I missed," Branton said. "I was so glad I was like, ''Thank you, Lord. He is down.'' I was excited. I was shaking."
Brown also was amazed at how she felt after completing her slam. She said she has come to love the challenging nature of hunting wild turkeys.
"When I finally killed my Gould''s a few weeks ago, I didn''t expect to react like I did," Brown said. "We had been planning this trip for a year. I had missed twice earlier in the day, and when I finally got my turkey I broke down and cried because it was a goal I had finally accomplished. To know we had been afforded the opportunity and to know I did something my husband and I am proud of, that is neat. There aren''t a lot of people who have done it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.