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Monday, June 26, 2006

Super Slam! Adventures with North American Big Game by Chuck Adams

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by IHunt Communications, Clanhassen, Minnesota, 2003; 351 pages, 28 chapters. Hardback with pictorial cover.
One of its biggest values is to remind us
that faraway continents are not the only places
to experience hunts for exotic animals.
Field experience is the bread and butter of the top outdoor writers. I learned that from my Alaska moose hunt, succeeding in placing two stories in national magazines. Do that once, and it's small time. Do it over and over again and it's big time, and for big time bowhunting experience, no name is bigger than Chuck Adams. With more than twice as many animals in the bowhunting record books than any other hunter, his archery exploits are legendary.

Borrowing a term from baseball, when a hunter harvests all four North American sheep subspecies, or four wild turkey subspecies, it's labeled a "grand slam." So Adams' latest book "Super Slam: Adventures with North American Big Game" is an extension of that idea. It's named for the feat of arrowing all 27 big game animals on our continent. Most of his trophies have antlers, horns or skulls that score high enough to make the bowhunting record book. Several ranked number 1 at the time of harvest, and he still owns the top spot for Rocky Mountain Elk. He was first to complete the "slam" in 1990 -- and since then few others have joined him.

His vast field experience has resulted in nearly 5000 magazine articles and the all-time best-selling bowhunting books -- and even won him an honorary doctorate from Williamsport's Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State.

Even so, it doesn't come without having some considerable advantages, paying hefty dues, and a bit of luck. If you're interested in how Chuck Adams got his start, the challenges he's faced, and what keeps him ticking, you might be interested in his biography by Gregg Gutschow called "Life At Full Draw". But if it's stories you want, you'll be hard pressed to find a bigger collection than what you'll find in "Super Slam."

For some people, records are anathema when it comes to hunting. For sure, the animals we hunt deserve respect for reasons that go beyond keeping score. Score is merely an indicator of the maturity of an animal and an attempt to honor the animal as a prime specimen of its type. Too often, the well-intentioned attempt to honor the animal results in honoring the hunter.

That's not to say that "Super Slam" is without value. One of its biggest values is to remind us that faraway continents are not the only places to experience hunts for exotic animals. North America offers some truly great hunting opportunities for game animals that match the variety and the beauty of animals anywhere in the world.

Adams writes about such exotics as muskox (more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have shot a muskox with a bow) and polar bear (only four people had put one in the record book at the time Adams made his hunt). All of Adams' hunts are exciting, none more so than his hunt for the giant Alaskan brown bear. His bear ranks number 3 all time in skull measurement -- tied with a brownie harvested by bowhunting pioneer Fred Bear. Fittingly, the longest chapter in the book is on whitetail deer, the most prolific and most widely hunted big game animal in the world. He also spends plenty of pages on the five subspecies of caribou, the most accessible large antlered game animal anywhere. And the chapter on elk makes clear -- it's his favorite big game.

The chapter I enjoyed most is the one on Sitka blacktail. Alaska's Kodiak Island has generous bag limits for these cousins of our whitetail deer. One day in 1986, Adams shot a world record Sitka, and the next day shot a bigger one. At the 1987 measuring session for archery records, Adams walked away with the number one and number two spots. Since then, another archer has taken over the top spot.

I met Chuck Adams a year ago, and I asked him if he feels pressure to take only large animals. He said that he felt no pressure at all. That's easy to say, now that Adams has accomplished his Super Slam. But while he was pursuing it, he admits he felt the pressure of others trying to accomplish the feat before he did. For me, hunting is not about pressure.

"Super Slam" is not among the greatest in hunting literature, but it's a worthy read. Here's one piece of advice: twenty-eight chapters and 351 pages of hunting stories tend to run together when you read large blocks at one sitting. You'll enjoy it more if you read leisurely, a chapter every 2 or 3 days -- and that's especially true if you want to benefit from his field experience. Order Super Slam at a 37% discount from