The Trophy of a Lifetime
By Mark Koehler
As I watched the heavy bearded gobbler slip away
through the thick underbrush I wondered if perhaps
I had just passed up a chance at a bird of a lifetime.
It was the third day of the 1992 Missouri spring turkey
season. A last minute cancellation by a hunter from
Massachusetts for my Diamond-K-Outfitters hunts, had
given me a few days to hunt on my own and even rain
wasnt going to keep me out of the woods.
early morning shower had put a damper on the gobbling
on the roost, but I knew a heavy sounding bird was
staying on a white oak ridge. So I setup along the
edge of a field where I had seen gobblers strutting
late in the mornings after their hens had left. I
setup a hen decoy and settled in under my poncho.
The rain finally let up and I heard a gobble about
100 yards down the ridge from me. I called and he
answered I knew that he was coming so I decided to
Movement soon caught my eye, a turkey was coming
off the ridge toward the field. As the turkey grew
closer I could easily see that it was a hen, but it
had a beard that looked like it could go 8 inches.
Just then the tom gobbled to my left, if he kept coming
and didnt change course he would pop over a
small ridge and would be right on top of me in easy
range. But as gobblers often do he changed course
and angled up the hill, when he did show up he was
about 50 yards away in heavy buck brush. I couldnt
believe the size of his beard, it looked like it could
go 16 inches or better. This was the best beard I
had ever seen.
About that time the hen figured out that something
wasnt right. She walked past me putting and
headed straight to the gobbler. Needless to say he
didnt come any closer, the distance was about
40 yards. I eased my Remington M-1100 L.H. Magnum
up but there was just too much brush in the way. I
wasnt about to take a chance on wounding such
a trophy. As I eased the gun down I wondered if I
would ever see this gobbler again. But I also knew
I was hooked. I would spend every chance that I had
trying to take this gobbler.
I am fortunate enough to own most of the land that
I guide and hunt on so I knew that there shouldnt
be any other hunters working this bird, so I eased
out not wanting to shake him up anymore than I already
I returned the next morning to the same area. This
time two birds answered my owl hooting. They were
roosting in a white oak holler very near where the
heavy bearded gobbler had come from the day before.
As the sun began to light up the sky, I let out some
soft tree yelps. Both gobblers immediately answered.
As soon as they hit the ground I cut at them, both
birds answered. I could tell that one sounded like
a jake and as luck would have it, the jake showed
up but the other gobbler went up the ridge.
The jake hung around for a while hoping for some
response from the decoy. He finally lost interest
and drifted off, this allowed me to go after the other
gobbler, but he continued to move further on up the
ridge and stopped gobbling.
Friday morning brought rain once again, a thunderstorm
rolled in just at daybreak, but not before a gobbler
had sounded off at the thunder in the distance. I
knew he was still there so after the rain stopped
I worked my way down the ridge following an old logging
road. As I eased along I heard a gobble in the distance.
After moving closer I called soft and got no response.
I decided to slip down to the edge of the field.
Two birds were in the field where I had setup the
decoy two days earlier, as I eased along the edge
of the field one of the birds strutted and gobbled,
another gobbler answered from the ridge. I called
and the birds in the field finally working them into
my position. It was the jake and a roan colored hen.
It was obvious that if I was going to get this gobbler
my tactics were going to have to change.
Saturday morning arrived clear and cool; the perfect
morning for turkey hunting. This time I decided to
approach from the creek bottom in hopes that the change
would lure him to me. As the sun began to light the
eastern skyline I hooted and a gobbler cut loose,
if this was the same bird he had roosted further down
the ridge closer to the creek bottom.
My plan was to use two calls, not actually calling
to the gobbler but trying to sound like two hens that
had roosted together. I called softly using the double
reed call, a Carlton Medium Bull which I used to bugle
in bull elk in the fall, it seemed to produce great
turkey talk also, so I used it and a Quaker Boy Pro
Triple, their combination had proved deadly on several
occasions. First soft tree yelps then some fly down
cackles. When I did this the gobbler really cut loose,
double gobbling, I heard him fly down and he gobbled
as soon as he hit the ground, it seemed that I had
I had positioned myself in a dry creek bed so that
when and if the tom showed up he would be with in
easy range and also if I needed to move I could do
so with out being seen. I continued making hen talk
not calling very loud and adding some purrs in with
the yelps all the while the tom was double and triple
gobbling, the hen talk really had him fired up.
I could hear him drumming and spitting, when you can
feel the drumming you had better be looking down the
barrel. So I eased my Remington M-1100 L.H. Mag. up
on my knee again and waited. I saw him coming down
the bank of the dry creek bed. It was the heavy bearded
tom from four days ago. When he stepped out from behind
a big sycamore I let him have a load of Remington
Du-Plex 4 x 6s at 18 steps, when I picked up
the bird I couldnt believe my eyes instead of
one big beard he had 9 beards.
After checking him in I contacted Bud Bennett, N.W.T.F.
member and editor of the Show-Me Gobbler so that he
could score the bird. Total length of the 9 beards
was 67 inches, the longest was 12, and total
score was 178.5. - 9 Beards is the most on record
with the N.W.T.F. Patience and persistence had paid
off. The prize was a trophy of a lifetime.
(You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org