Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Targeting Trophy Toms

Caption: By getting back away from the crowds you may find older and less pressured birds.

Caption: By getting back away from the crowds you may find older and less pressured birds.

Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Targeting Trophy Toms

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.  


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. 


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.


Turkeys may be bunched up early in the day.  Those old, dominant trophy toms are henned-up.  They won’t come to your calling.  But as the day wears on, hens begin falling out of the flock to tend to nesting.  Like a mature buck toward the end of rut, those older birds become more vulnerable “up in the day.”


Go where few, if any, other hunters go.  Where birds are subjected to less hunting pressure they’re less wary.  They also live longer and thus, become trophy specimens.  Don’t be afraid to hike way back in.  Or, if you have an ATV, drive into the back country.


Just as older birds are more vulnerable late in the day, they’re also more susceptible to being duped late in the season.  There’s a small window of opportunity between the time they lose all their hens and the time they lose all interest in hens.  If you hit it right, you might go home with a real limbhanger.