I guess in most ways he was an easy gobbler. I can’t say there haven’t been many, many others that were more of a challenge. From his spurs it was apparent that he was old. But then so am I. On opening day I was too sleepy to get out of bed, so I didn’t hear him gobbling on the roost. The night before I had been writing very late so I was still sleepy when I threw my old shotgun over my shoulder and headed for the woods after 8 a.m. I went down through the woods with the sun climbing high and found a few mushrooms, and then about a half mile away I heard a gobble, and then another. Even someone who has hunted wild turkey for 50 years gets excited about hearing an old tom on opening day. I will always head for a wild gobbler’s call like a beagle pup on the trail of a rabbit.
When I got to the little wooded knoll I thought was close enough, I could actually see two gobblers in a little opening about 200 yards away, courting 5 or 6 hens. What a sight it was, those toms all huffed up with tails spread and heads blood red in the bright sunlight that found its way through the branches of surrounding oaks. Well as any grizzled old veteran turkey hunter knows, there are times when calling a gobbler is a waste of time, because he can see the hens before him, and one off in the distance that he can only hear just isn’t of much interest to him. If he has a shapely young female in a bikini right there in front of him, telling him what a handsome rascal he is and enticing him to come closer, he sure isn’t going to leave her and go check out a distant call from some hen that might be old, fat and ugly!
On a few occasions over the years I have called in a small group of hens, 2 or 3 usually who have been followed by gobblers. That is rare, but it can happen. So I got settled up against a log with some buckbrush before me and gave forth some of the most enticing turkey calling you can imagine, apparently sounding like one of those fat and ugly old hens. The show out there before me was something to see, a turkey flock orgy of sorts that made me plumb ashamed to be watching. It was about 10 a.m. when I just gave up and leaned back against that log and dozed off. I didn’t know I was so tired. I woke up about 11: 30. Maybe it was a lusty gobble that woke me up. The two old toms were about 30 yards closer than they had been and there wasn’t a hen in sight.
This is where I might brag on my ability as a turkey caller you know. But I only called once. I doubt if it had much affect, they were coming straight as a string. They just ambled toward me, pecking here and there, not strutting at all. At 70 or 80 yards they stopped and gobbled in unison, and if you’ve hunted spring gobblers I expect you have seen that too, on occasion. They did that one more time when they were about 45 yards away. I couldn’t tell one from the other so I just picked out a red and blue and white target and it was all over as the shotgun blast interrupted the peaceful forest landscape.
So there I was waiting for the gobbler I had chosen to stop flopping, watching his buddy hotfoot it in a big curve through green grass into a green woodland.
I had found a few mushrooms, had a good long nap and was heading home before noon with a hefty gobbler over my shoulder. I don’t know why I hadn’t paid much attention to the beard, but it was two hours later, when I hoisted the gobbler in my basement to be dressed out, that I saw his beard, and another and another and another. THERE WERE SEVEN OF THEM!! The longest was 11 inches long, and the combined length of all seven beards was 49 inches. The tom weighed 21 pounds and had spurs that were one and a quarter inches long. You can see his picture on my blogspot and on Lightnin’ Ridge facebook page, or on my website… www.larrydablemont.com. A friend of mine was amazed at that tom turkey. He said that with the Wild Turkey Federation’s record book, my gobbler would likely score in the top five! That’ll be the day… if I start trying to score a wild turkey, somebody come and declare me an idiot and have me locked in my storage shed. Never will I use a wild creature in such a way. I may have it taxidermyized just to prove it really did have seven beards. But to tell the truth I have had much more exciting turkey hunts. If you don’t believe it, read about many of them in my book, ‘The Greatest Wild Gobblers’. In the 80’s I wrote an article for Outdoor Life magazine entitled, “The Gobbler Across the Gulch.” I reprinted it in that book. Now there was a gobbler to remember. But he only had one beard.