At the ripe old age of 14, there’s not a whole lot left for Keenan Adams to achieve in the world of turkey hunting — he’s just about done it all. Actually, most folks would say he had just about done it all back in 2003, when at 9 years old he became the youngest person ever to achieve a world slam.
In doing so, he joined an elite list of hunters who have accomplished the feat of bagging one of each type of turkey in North America — eastern, rio grande, merriam’s, goulds, osceola and ocellated. He completed the final step of that slam by killing an oscellated turkey in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on a hunting trip with his father and uncle in 2003.
But he didn’t stop there. Since that time, this eighth grader at Hutto Middle School in Bainbridge has one-upped himself several times, collecting an additional seven world slams. He took his last two world slams with a Mathews bow, and in the process he arrowed the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) highest-scoring and heaviest oscellated turkey on record. He also became the youngest hunter to ever take a world slam with a bow, and the only person to hold eight grand slams.
After killing 113 turkeys, and reaching what many view as the pinnacle of the sport, it would seem natural for the allure of turkey hunting to wane in Keenan’s eyes. He doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s hard to get bored with turkey hunting. Having them gobble and come in is pretty awesome,” he said. “Every morning you go out, you have no expectations. You don’t know what’s going to happen. If you don’t get your bird, you know you’ve got to go back another time; and when you do get it, it’s so rewarding. It makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.”
About five years ago, Keenan retired his shotgun, picked up a bow and never looked back. He does all his hunting with a bow now, and competes in archery tournaments around the country. He was named the Archery Shooter’s Association (ASA) Shooter of the Year in 2006 after winning the association’s World Championship for the 13- and 14-year-old age group, and that’s just one on a long list of tournament wins.
“I haven’t picked up a gun in the last year,” he said. “It’s a lot more exciting; there’s a lot more challenge to it. Not everybody can pull back, get set, have the patience and follow through with it.”
Keenan hunts from a blind and does all his own calling, except in Mexico where the “jungle birds” emit a whistling call that would sound alien to most Georgia hunters. He has won numerous calling competitions, and prefers using a slate on tough birds that get hung up because he can call softly and seductively with a slate. He’ll use a box in high wind or for long-distance calling, but he’s found that the diaphragm calls he hand makes are more condusive to bowhunting.
“When that bird’s coming in, the thing you want in your hand is the bow,” he explained.
Last year, Keenan’s tactics made for an exceptionally short Georgia season. Within four days of opening day on Saturday, March 25, Keenan had three nice birds in the freezer. All three of them ranked in NWTF’s top 15 birds ever killed with a bow in Georgia; he took them all off of his family’s land in Decatur County, and he shot them on three consecutive days.
“I knew those birds were there, it was a matter of scouting good,” Keenan said. “Most people would have left the area after killing the first one, but I waited them out and killed all three. It took some patience, but it was worth it.
“Around home, my uncle, my dad and I try to get an idea of where they roost and their lifestyle by scouting around for sign. We also check food plots and listen in the mornings prior to the season.”
He took the first gobbler, a 16-pounder with a 7 1/2-inch beard and 1-inch spurs, on March 26. It was the state’s No. 15 best bow-kill registered with NWTF. He stuck the second one, a 17-lb. gobbler with a 9-inch beard and 1.125-inch spurs the next day. It ranked 11th on the list. And the third, which ranked ninth on the list with a weight of more than 18-pounds, an 8 1/2-inch beard and 11/4-inch spurs, he killed the morning of March 28. Those three birds go nicely with the No. 6 bow-kill he arrowed in 2005.
“There were two that had been hanging out together. The strutter came in and I got a 17-yard shot on him. His buddy just walked off,” Keenan said. “The next day, the buddy was the dominant bird, and he just came right on in for a 25-yard shot. The third bird was in another area, and he came in to about 33 yards.”
For many bowhunters, a 33-yard shot would be a long one on a strutting bird, but with all the time Keenan spends shooting in, and practicing for, tournaments he felt comfortable taking the shot. He already took a bird at more than 45 yards this year in Florida, which opened its season March 19.
Again, Keenan was on a trip with his father, Roy Adams, and his uncle, Buddy Adams — the two men who gave him an early introduction to the outdoors. Their hunting adventures began long before Keenan was born, when a business they built allowed them the time and money to both purchase hunting land in Georgia and begin traveling to exotic hunting destinations.
“I’ve got six girls. Keenan’s the youngest and he’s the only boy, so naturally he got to hang around with daddy,” Roy said. “He got to see all that when he was coming up — I’m talking about when he was in diapers. We used to ride him around and he got the chance to see the kind of wildlife most people don’t see until they’re grown.
“I like to say he was born and bred into it. It seems like he loves it, and he lives day-to-day for it.”
Keenan remembers all the time he spent with his dad in a blind, and he especially remembers the first turkey he ever pulled the trigger on. He was 5 years old and had accompanied his father on a hunt with the intention of watching his father kill a bird.
“One day, out of the blue, I was sitting there and I told him‘I’m tired of watching you do it. I want to shoot the gun,’” Keenan said. “I remember, I shot the gun and it knocked me back. It was a shock; I didn’t expect that much recoil. But I killed the bird and I was happy.”
Nine years and 112 dead turkeys later, Keenan is just as enthralled with the sport as he ever was, but with school work, archery tournaments and his soccer team he doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to hunting as he used to. He apparently manages his time well, though, as he is on the A/B honor roll at school.
Now he enjoys taking people hunting as much as he enjoys killing a bird himself — and with the type of season he had last year, he has plenty of time for that. Keenan said he has called up several birds for people who have never had the opportunity to kill a turkey.
“It’s almost more fun to see someone get their first bird,” he said. “It’s something different.”
Keenan also wants to learn to bowhunt turkeys without a blind. He said it has to be the most difficult thing to do in hunting.
“All those guys that take their bow out and kill birds without a blind, I give them full credit. That’s got to be the hardest thing,” he said. “A blind is the way to go. Without one, there’s like an 80 percent chance you’re going to get busted…
“Maybe that’s what I’ll try next,” he added.
Perhaps Keenan hasn’t yet exhausted all of the possibilities for turkey hunting firsts.
Turkey Hunting Records
• World record ocellated turkey by weight. (17.4-lb bow-kill)
• World record best-overall ocellated turkey. (bow-kill)
• Youngest world slam holder. (age 9)
• Youngest to take a world slam with a bow. (age 11)
• Only holder of eight world slams.
• 12 royal slams.
• 16 grand slams.
• 113 turkeys harvested.
• 1st: NFAA, Claxton.
• 1st: ASA Pro/Am Tour Little River.
• 1st: ASA Pro/Am Tour Circle C.
• 1st: IBO Southern Triple Crown, second leg, Calhoun.
• 2nd: ASA Pro/Am Tour, Gainesville, Fla.
• 2nd: IBO Southern Triple Crown, first leg, Wetumpka, Ala.
• 2nd: ASA Pro/Am Tour Hattisburg, Miss.
• 7th: NFAA World Archery, Las Vegas, Nev.
• ASA Shooter of the Year.
• Won ASA World Championship.
• 1st: ASA Georgia State Championship.
• 1st: ASA Alabama State Championship.
• 1st: ASA Florida State Championship
• 1st: ASA South Georgia State Championship.
• 1st: Youth Male Freestyle NFAA Indoor Championship.
• 1st: ASA Pro/Am Virginia.
• 2nd: ASA Pro/Am Fort Benning.
• 3rd: ASA Pro/Am Metropolis, Ill.
• 1st: NAA Indoor Championship.
• 1st: NFAA Gator Bowmen Outdoor Shoot.
Turkey Calling Contests
• 1st: Jr. Division Peachtree Classic 2007.
• 2nd: Southeastern Turkey Calling Contest, Bass Pro Shops, Savannah 2006.
• 1st: Louisiana State Contest 2006.
• 1st: Lake Seminole Spurs Open 2006.
• 1st: Florida State Contest 2006.
• 1st: Peach Classic 2006.
• 2nd: Georgia State Contest 2006.
• 3rd: Realtree Classic 2006.
• 1st: Battle on the Ohio 2005.
• 2nd: National Turkey Calling Contest 2005.