Opening day of turkey season was still weeks away, but a passion for hunting spring gobblers had me out cruising farmland and glassing the fields for longbeards.
My first sighting of the ancient spring monarch occurred mid-morning on a bright sunny day in late March. At a distance of 250 yards it was easy to pick out the gobbler as he fed with 3 hens in a small food plot. The black, barrel-size chest and bright red head gleamed like “new money” against the rich green clover.
Snatching my Zeiss 10 x 42 binoculars off the Mossy Oak seat covers, I found my chin dropping low as I got a clear view of the feeding turkeys. Not only did the turkey sport a good long beard; it was by far the widest beard I’d ever seen swinging from a gobbler’s chest. Later, when describing the turkey to my wife, I described the turkeys’ beard as looking like a paint- brush as wide as four fingers. While my wife scolded me for exaggerating, I just smiled and said, “Wait and see!”
But it seemed that I had jinxed myself. I only saw the huge gobbler once more in the field, and that was a week before the season opened. Although I was fortunate to arrow a mature gobbler with 1 1/2″ spurs during that season, my confidence of ever seeing the paintbrush gobbler faded like the morning dew. I decided that hunters’ load of number 6’s or maybe a predator had ended my dream of hunting the big gobbler with bow and arrow.
A great gobbler but not the Paint Brush.
After the passing of another year, I found myself again glassing fields, looking for gobblers on sunny mornings in March. By the time opening day arrived, I had a few nice gobblers located on the same farm where the paintbrush gobbler had been seen the year before.
On the second Wednesday of the season I arrowed a beautiful gobbler as it strutted to my calls. Having heard another turkey gobbling in the same area, I returned later in the week with my Double Bull blind, hoping to “tag-out” with my Mathews bow.
It doesn’t take a North Carolina boy long to learn that mature Eastern gobblers are unpredictable and extremely challenging to hunt with a stick and string. One day they will gobble hard and the next day go silent. Although I thought I’d located a red-hot gobbler, the bird proved to be extremely difficult to call to within range. Heck, I couldn’t even lure him into seeing distance. So, I decided to use what I call the “Three P’s of Bowhunting– Practice, patience and perseverance.”
Having no luck on the morning hunt, I decided to spend the afternoon hunting a small clover field that lay within 150 yards of the old birds’ roost. Nearing the field, I crouched and peered between small pines to see a gobbler feeding in the clover. It was the paintbrush gobbler that I’d not seen for over a year. I backed away and decided to return at daylight the following morning.
After hearing the turkey gobble a few times on the roost but refusing to come to my calls, I decided to wait him out while sitting inside my Double Bull. Nine hours later I pulled my aching body from the blind not having seen a turkey.
The gobbler refused to show again on the third day even though I put in 10 continuous hours hunting from the blind. I was determined not to give up on this grand bird, but he was making it extremely difficult. The following day I could only hunt the afternoon. Again, no luck in seeing or hearing the gobbler.
When discussing the situation with my wife, she suggested I hunt until 10:30 am then return to the blind at 4:30 pm. I was trying to maintain my confidence in arrowing the bird, but I was becoming concerned about loosing my sanity from the long hours inside the blind.
At 10:20 am on the following day, I was preparing to exit the blind when I saw the gobbler step into the edge of the field, twenty-five yards away. The heavy, wide beard was proof this was the paintbrush gobbler I’d hunted so long.
My heart raced while I slowly reached for the bow as the turkey fed closer. Raising my arm one- inch at a time, it felt like the bow had gone from less than 4 pounds to a weight so heavy I could barely lift it. A slow burn crept through my arm and shoulders as I anchored the bowstring then, within seconds the Easton arrow was gone.
Although I was confident the Rocket Hammerhead broadhead had flown true; I made myself wait thirty minutes before searching for the gobbler. A wounded turkey will often bury themselves under vines, brush or logs when chased.
Tracks and turkey sign led me to find the gobbler a short 40 yards inside the tree line. As I inspected the turkey’s beard I realized the exceptional width was a result of being a double beard with one measuring 10 1/2 inches and the other 9 1/2 inches.
I then rolled the turkey over to look at its spurs. The left leg carried a broken spur measuring 1 1/4 inches but it was the spur on the right leg that made me realize this was truly an amazing turkey. The long sharp pointed spur was longer than any I’d ever seen in magazines or anywhere.
Two beards, a great kill and a new record spur. The wait was worth it.
After a 60 day drying period, Ramon Bell an official Pope and Young measurer and past Record Chairman for the NC Bowhunter Association, officially recorded the spurs’ length as 1 15/16 inches! Soon thereafter the paper work was mailed to the National Wild Turkey Federation where it was declared the new world record for longest spur on an Eastern A-Typical Wild Gobbler taken with the bow and arrow. The previous record was 1 3/4 inches.
I had enjoyed a true bow hunt of a lifetime using my “Three P’s for Bowhunting”?. Practice, patience and perseverance.
To learn more about the NWTF and turkey facts go to www.NWTF.org and click on “For Hunters” and then click on “Turkey Records.”