By Bob Humphrey
While there are many similarities, there are just as many differences between turkey hunters and deer hunters. For instance, I think it’s safe to say the goal of most serious deer hunters is a trophy buck. They set out after one and may pass up lesser deer in deference, waiting for a “shooter” buck. Most serious turkey hunters on the other hand, are satisfied with a longbeard - any longbeard, instead defining the success of their hunt more by events that went into it rather than by the animal taken.
Don’t get me wrong. We’d all like to bag a bird that’s exceptional in terms of weight or beard or spur length. But those things are very hard to judge until you actually lay your hands on the bird. You may not be able to pick and choose. But there are ways you can increase the odds of the bird you bag being a legitimate trophy tom.
Be patient. Don’t shoot the first longbeard you see. A tom that comes charging in to your decoys or calling is far more likely to be a two-year-old. His beard will be eight to 10 inches long and his spurs less than an inch. They’re fun to kill, and they make you feel like a turkey hunter but they’re not gonna get you in the record books.
Shoot the strutter. In a flock containing multiple longbeards, the oldest bird is most often the most dominant. While he may not be the heaviest, he’ll have the longest spurs. He’ll display his dominance by strutting confidently. Other longbeards may strut, but not in close proximity to the dominant bird.