By Nick Simonson
While growing up on the Sheyenne River, I’d make it a weekend effort to complete what I called the Sheyenne Slam. It wasn’t necessarily tough to do, despite the parameters of landing seven species in two days, considering that most of them were willing biters and after a few weeks on the water, I could count on fish in the old familiar places.
I’d start out on Friday night looking to catch at least one of each common fish in the flow: walleye, northern pike, black crappie, perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, and the given for the challenge, a bullhead of any variety. If I could land them all, no matter how big or small, by Sunday evening, that was the sign of a good weekend. Four times Monday morning rolled around in one summer and I had all seven checked off my list.
On two occasions, I expanded the weekend event to what I called the Barnes County Slam, where I added in a rainbow trout on Moon Lake, a largemouth bass from Clausen Springs and a rock bass from the Sheyenne as it flowed through peaceful Kathryn, N.D., achieving the feat only once. Though to be correct, and inclusive, I should have added a catfish from the lower reaches of the River or Moon Lake, which I never landed.
I knew a farmer once who was also well seasoned in the hunting traditions of North Dakota. He relayed to me the tales of his completion of the “Dakota Slam” for big game, tagging all six big game species available in the state throughout his lifetime. This list included those tags that are only available to hunters once during that same span – elk, moose and bighorn sheep. So between his mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, and the three once-in-a-lifetime species, he had created his own slam of sorts, and was well known for the feat which took him many years, determination, lots of planning and a little luck to accomplish.
No matter where you are, there’s a slam waiting for you. Whether you’re fishing or hunting, a personal checklist spread over a day, a season or a lifetime will provide not only a challenge of your angling and tracking skills, but also an opportunity to learn a great deal about a number of species and how each one interacts with the world around us. Pick your favorite species to hunt or fish for in your area and combine activities to get it all in this fall. Maybe it’s a pair of roosters and a couple walleyes for some October cast-and-blast action or you could choose from some already established slams for a long-term goal.
In a few weeks you can try for an upland slam and make a weekend of trekking throughout the regions of North Dakota chasing ruffed grouse, sharptailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ringneck pheasants. Maybe it’s more of an ultimate bucket list event like the Caribbean Slam is for anglers trying to land the big four– bonefish, permit, tarpon and snook. Try it on the fly for an extra challenge. Doing either would take some preparation time, some planning, and a great deal of understanding what those species need to survive, where they live and what you need to do to put yourself in a position to find them.
Whatever fish or game you have your eye on – whether it’s all the billfish, all three varieties of North American deer, or just a brace of common waterfowl in the upcoming opener, devising a slam of your own provides a new twist on the age-old activities of hunting and fishing. Keep it simple for an afternoon of fun trying to catch every species in a nearby lake, or dream big, go exotic and enjoy trips spaced out over several decades chasing the slam of a lifetime and in the process of pursuing either a self-titled slam or a more mainstream one, make some grand memories in the process.
Featured Photo: Create a slam of your own – with pheasant season coming soon, you can try for the upland slam – a rooster, a sharpie, a ruffie and a Hun – in a weekend or a season.