By David Kisamore
Staring at the turkey beard I keep on the top shelf of my computer desk takes me back to the day I downed my largest gobbler.
I didn’t have much in the way of hunting equipment back then, a borrowed 12-gauge pump shotgun, mismatched hunting clothes, and a Lynch’s World Champion box call I had bought at a local department store a few years earlier.
I was 31 years old at the time and not a very experienced turkey hunter. I had taken several white tailed deer and small game, but the only gobbler to my credit was a Jake I shot in a cornfield when I was 15 years old. Even back then, though, I had learned few things NOT to do when turkey hunting.
I chuckle as I recall learning about a turkey’s keen sight. My older brother had taken me hunting and was calling in a very excited gobbler for me to shoot. As I sat with my back against a tree, my brother noticed my white tube socks protruding from the bottom of my undersized camo pants.
He ordered me to the other side of the tree, and then shot the 8-inch-bearded gobbler himself. I was disappointed and a little angry, but my brother explained that the tom would have immediately seen my socks and fled.
It was April 1997 when I took my biggest gobbler. I left the house about an hour and a half before daylight and set up on the side of a ridge overlooking a small stream. A large field was nearby. I felt confident that I would see some turkeys.
Sitting motionless with my back against a tall oak, I waited for a response to the clucks I’d scratched out with my box call. That was the only sound I knew how to make, and I used it frequently. It was a windy morning, and the turkeys seemed to have resorted to walking around and not talking.
Soon, I spotted the silhouette of a group of turkeys walking up a slope about 70 yards away. I wasn’t sure if they were responding to my calls or if I had just picked the right place to sit. Fortunately, there was a small rise in the contour of the ravine between me and the flock, and they were soon out of sight. This allowed me to get ready for a shot.
Slowly rising to one knee, I picked up my box call and gave three short clucks. Then bracing myself against the tree, I picked up my shotgun and leveled it in the direction the flock seemed to be heading.
Seconds later, a gobbler appeared over the crest of the ravine 30 yards distant. He was not strutting, but his impressive beard was plain to see. I aimed at his head and pulled the trigger.
It was a clean kill. The turkey lay motionless on the ground.
It turned out to be a 22.5-pound gobbler with a 9-inch beard. Swelling with pride and satisfaction, I slung the turkey over my shoulder and headed for home.
It is not a world record, and perhaps one day I will bag a bigger turkey, but few things will ever top the thrill and excitement of that first longbeard.