Last year, on April 5, Sean Bennett of Statesboro killed a freakish, eight- bearded, Treutlen County gobbler that broke a 7-year-old state record. The funny thing is, the bird was not particularly old or large, it just had a whole lot of beard.
A score of 152.25 was good enough to beat out the old record, set by Richard Roland’s Stewart County bird in 2000, by more than four points under the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) scoring system. With a formula that takes into account total beard length, spur length and weight, Sean’s bird climbed the list on an amazing 60 7/8 total inches of beard.
Sean was hunting private land with two buddies, and they heard several gobblers sound off from the roost on the edge of a field. They set up in some planted pines about 40 yards from the field. One bird flew down and circled around the three hunters into the field. Nobody got a shot.
“Fifteen minutes or so later, the others eventually flew down out of the tree,” Sean said. “We had two hens come in, and right behind them there were either three or four gobblers. I waited for the first one to come past me, and the second one in line — I brought my gun up and shot it. It just happened to be the one with eight beards.
“I knew he was a grown gobbler, but I didn’t see the multiple beards till we saw him on the ground. Once I got him on the ground, I knew he was special, but I didn’t know he was going to be a record bird.” Scott Hodges of Southern Reflections Taxidermy in Byron took the bird’s measurements and mounted the gobbler for Sean. He said, with a weight of just 16.76 pounds and spurs measuring just 1 1/16 inches, the gobbler was a 2-year-old when Sean killed it. The bird’s eight beards made the difference. The longest beard measured 10 1/2 inches, and the shortest stretched the tape to 5 inches.
“I can’t believe a 2-year-old is going to make the new state record,” Scott said. “It’s incredible.”
Sean’s bird also ranks 35th in the national rankings for a typical gobblers.
The other story evidenced by all the new entries in the turkey rankings after last season is an increase in Georgia hunters who are taking turkeys with archery equipment. Not only was there a new state-record bow-kill last year, there were seven new entries in the top-10, and all the top-four rankings were taken in 2007.
Eric Hoover’s Banks County bird, killed on March 24 last year, blew away the previous 9-year-old, state-record bow-kill. With a score of 112, Eric’s bird beat the previous record, set by Lynn Keller’s Warren County bird, by more than 34 points. In fact, after last season, Lynn’s bird dropped all the way to fifth in the rankings, as it was also bumped down with gobblers killed by Tim Tillman (94), John Burch (90.75) and Larry Gould (89.625).
Eric’s bird, which now tops the list of bowkills for Georgia, had four beards totaling 34 1/2 inches. Its longest beard measured 10 1/2 inches. The bird’s longest spur measured 1 1/2 inches, and it weighed 20 1/2 pounds. It is also the No. 5 bird taken with a bow in the country.
Another great bird killed last sea- son was taken by David Dean on April 26 in Laurens County. The bird’s longest spur measured 2 inches, a new state record for spur length. David was hunting a private tract near his Laurens County farm north of Dublin.
Two weeks earlier, David was hunting near a creek when he heard a gobble. Thinking there was no way the bird would cross the creek, he left his shotgun beside him while working his slate. When the bird flew across the creek, David wasn’t ready.
“I looked at him, and he looked at me,” David said. “Then he just walked off. I saw he was a good bird.”
It was the same bird David encountered a second time on April 26. He had gone to another spot on the property early, and with no action he decided to check out the creek bottom at the same spot where he saw the bird earlier in the season.
“It was way past fly-down time. I hit my crystal slate and heard one gobble a long way off. I didn’t think he was going to come that far,” David said. “I touched it again, and he double gobbled. He was on his way. I got ready this time, but I still didn’t figure it would fly over that creek, but he did.”
Actually, David heard two birds fly over the creek, but he wasn’t close enough to the bank to see the creek or the birds. The first bird to come in was a mature tom, but it had a skinny beard. When David heard a second bird gobble, he held off on the shot, thinking he might see the same gobbler he saw two weeks earlier. He was right. When the second bird came in, David knew it was the one he wanted and took the shot.
“When I got him on the ground, the first thing I saw was how big his feet were. That bird had some big feet,” David said. “Then I saw his spurs, and my eyes about popped out of my head.”
The gobbler’s hooks measured 1 7/8 inches on the left and 2 inches on the right. It weighed 23-lbs., 4-ozs., and it had two beards. One beard was 11 inches, and the other measured 8 3/4 inches. David’s bird also ranks as the 24th heaviest bird in the state.
“I’ve killed a lot of birds in my time, and I’ve called up a bunch,” David said. “But I’ll probably never get to do that again.”
At presstime, the spur measurement on David’s bird was 1.9375 on the NWTF list. It still tops the longest- spur category, but the measurement is expected to increase once NWTF approves the new length taken by two other scorers. If the new measurement is approved, David’s turkey will be tied for the fourth-longest spurs ever taken in the nation. David’s turkey was mounted by Frog Mullis of Frog’s Buck Shop Taxidermy in Cochran.
The wild turkey records are kept by the NWTF on its website. For complete state-by-state and national turkey records lists, log onto www.nwtf.org.