Andrew Walters shows us how small tracts, managed properly, can really perform!
I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few hunters from across the country, mostly due to the fact that I attended NC State University and studied Wildlife and Fisheries Science. One of which is my good friend from upstate New York, also named Andrew. He is an avid turkey hunter who has multiple gobblers to his name. I am a deer hunter, tried and true. I usually spend my turkey season hunting for fallen shed antlers, establishing mineral sites, and checking trail cameras, not pursuing turkeys. I had yet to set foot in the woods after a long beard, but I decided this was the year. I recently had the opportunity to hunt 12 acres outside of Tarboro, North Carolina and observed quite a few turkeys while deer hunting. It seemed nobody had plans to be harassing the turkeys in April, so we derived a strategy.
Long story short, opening day we were both at the base to three loblolly pines wrapped in burlap and covered in holly and pine limbs on the edge of a young wheat field. Opening morning was great, we spotted two hens and had three toms gobble back at us, none of which committed to our decoy. My trail cameras revealed there were quite a few turkeys roaming around the jagged edges of the wheat field, so we were set up in the same location that afternoon. After a couple of hours and a few chirps on the calls, we had a hen coming to our decoy. She slipped out of the swamp bottom and entered the wheat field, where we were waiting. After a few tense moments, she committed to the decoy and came to it on a string. We were anxiously awaiting to see what she was planning to do with my decoy. As she was 15 yards away and getting closer we noticed she had what seemed to be a beard. It couldn’t be though, not on a hen. When she reached the decoy, she fanned her tail feathers out and attacked it, spinning it around and almost knocking it over. Amongst the thrashing and jumping we caught a glimpse of a beard, a very respectful beard flailing around. North Carolina hunting regulations allow bearded hens to be taken and being as how I had yet to harvest a turkey, I took the shot. With the report of my Mossberg, she dropped at 10 yards and I had quickly claimed my first “Long beard.” She weighed 16 pounds and had a 10 inch beard. She wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but I was thrilled nonetheless with her.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have harvested an unusual turkey with my close friend. It’s amazing the amount of fun you can have when hunting with a buddy, and harvesting my first turkey made it even more memorable. This goes to show that when you find the right piece of property and manage it properly, the results can be truly astounding, even if it’s just 12 acres.