Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three Beards and a Turkey Tale

Brooke Smith did not know what to think that first Saturday morning of April.  She was going on her first turkey hunt on youth day in North Carolina along with the crew from Hardwoods Inc. Productions.  If things went well, Brooke would get a shot at a nice tom (adult male turkey) and the crew would get some video footage for their upcoming season.
For Brooke’s age, she is a seasoned hunter.  Her father started her hunting at the age of 10.  When she was 12, she knocked down a large nine point whitetail.  It would be what some would call their ‘deer of a lifetime’.  However at 14 years old, she had never been turkey hunting, and this hunt was going to include a television crew watching over her shoulder.
Brooke Smith with her prize trophy.
Just prior to sunrise, her father Phil asked her to listen carefully.  She could hear the gobbles in the distance, but not too distant.  Her anxiety grew with the passing minutes.  Phil pointed across the field as several hens crossed in front of them.  Travis, one of the crew members, told her the hens were out of their roost and the toms would follow.  Over the next half hour, the hens began acting strange, spooked even, and took off out of sight.  The crew decided to take a short break.
A little later, one tom made its way in to the field.  “Diddy” she whispered with a deep southern draw, “I’m nervous!”
Travis and Casey, the other crew member, could not get a good video shot of the turkey at the angle the tom was located, so they waited a bit.  Two more toms strutted into the field coming toward the decoy.  One came up 35 yards away.  Shooting range.  Still nervous and shaking, Brooke leveled the Thompson Center Arms 20 gauge and tried to gain focus.  Aim for the red at the head, put the center sight between the outside sights, get them level…
“Bang!”  The tom flopped and jumped about.  Before the men could move, Brooke was out in the field trying to grab the bird.  Too fast and too furious for Brooke to get hold of, her father grabbed the gobbler by the head and neck.  The struggle was over.  As Phil congratulated his daughter, Travis noticed the beard was heavy and thick.  This is going to be a good bird he thought to himself.
As Casey came out with the camera, videoing the moment, Travis looked back down at the bird.  It was not a heavy beard, it was multiple beards.  He reached down and started separating them out.  Three beards.  “This is going to be a big bird!”
Scoring for turkey is based on their beard lengths and their spurs.  The National Wild Turkey Federation governs the official records.  Travis did a quick score on the turkey.  80.9375, a very good score.
That evening Travis pulled out the books.  He made a quick phone call to Phil.  “Phil, measure those beards again.  Brooke may have a very good turkey.”  Phil confirmed the earlier measurements.
Brooke’s turkey will place second all time in North Carolina for a female, and top thirty in the United States.  It will take sixty to ninety days for the score to be verified and processed.  Brooke, her father, and her hunting buddies will remember and tell of the experience for much longer.

Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to

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