Michigan Biologist Sets World Record
EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Al Stewart of Bath, Mich., has celebrated many milestones during his long career with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), including helping restore wild turkey populations in Michigan, but he recently set a world record for an unusual feat.
During a trip to the jungles of Campeche, Mexico, Stewart became the first person on record to complete the World Slam for turkey trapping. Biologists use the trap-and-transfer method to relocate wild turkeys to suitable habitat for restoration and research purposes.
In the world of turkey hunting, completing the World Slam is a difficult and rewarding accomplishment that involves harvesting all five subspecies of the North American wild turkeys: Eastern, Gould's, Osceola, Merriam's and Rio Grande; and the Ocellated wild turkey, which is found primarily in Mexico. While many hunters have accomplished this goal, according to National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) records, Stewart is the only person to date who has accomplished this task for trapping.
James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., NWTF's chief conservation officer, presented a framed print to Stewart honoring his historical achievement during the 10th National Wild Turkey Symposium in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
"The NWTF has recognized hunters who earned their World Slam for turkey hunting, so it is only fitting to have an accolade for a person who is partly responsible for helping ensure hunters have wild turkeys to pursue," Kennamer said. "Al represents many other biologists who have trapped and transferred these turkeys, but he's the only one who has reached this level."
As the upland game bird specialist with the MDNR and a longtime member of the NWTF's Technical Committee, Stewart has been a team player in helping restore wild turkey populations in Michigan and has traveled to various locations to participate in wild turkey trap-and-transfer projects.
Stewart thanked Kennamer and Scott Vance, NWTF's assistant vice president of conservation programs administration, for their support through the years.
"I'm grateful – and pleasantly surprised – to receive this recognition," Stewart said. "But the true honor has been working alongside professional biologists who are dedicated to wildlife restoration. Along the way my peers have encouraged me to become the first person to trap a World Slam, and no one has been more supportive than Dr. Kennamer and Scott. Without their help and the opportunities I had to participate in trap-and-transfer projects this wouldn't have been possible."
Stewart is no stranger to earning recognition for his hard work. In 2009, he received the prestigious Henry S. Mosby Award during the NWTF's national convention. The Mosby Award is named for Dr. Henry Mosby, whose research with wild turkeys in the mid-1900s set the standard for their management. He also helped found The Wildlife Society and was the winner of its highest honor − the Aldo Leopold Medal.
In 1992, President George H. Bush and Congressman Dave Camp presented the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award to Stewart for his work on a barrier-free viewing and hunting platform at the Maple River State Game Area. In 1998, the NWTF Michigan State Chapter awarded him the Outstanding Conservationist Award. In 2000, the Arizona Fish and Game Department selected Stewart to assist with the Gould's wild turkey restoration in Arizona. In 2005, he served as coordinator and co-editor of the 9th National Wild Turkey Symposium.
The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, spending more than $331 million to conserve 15.9 million acres of habitat for all types of wildlife.