Hearing a bird gobbling from the front porch of your cabin, on the first day of your season, has to be a good omen. Throw in an encounter with the same bird roosted over a main road, tossing gobbles down the boulevard like he owned it- well that can only make a turkey hunter smile. However, smiling was a bit tough as I snapped a few pictures of the tom out the window of my truck, knowing I did not have permission to hunt the area.
That was my first meeting with a tom that we eventually named the “Freak” of Gladwin County. Ironically, the good omen did not pay dividends in the form of a tagged gobbler that day. However, I did get the next best thing, permission to hunt a piece of property where the “Freak” liked to spend his mornings impressing the ladies.
The next morning while making my way across a field, the “Freak” was already sounding off. His silhouetted black blob was again roosted over the road, so I settled into my set up and waited for the morning to unfold. The soft yelps of a hen convinced me it was time to cluck and let him know there was a new girl in town. Then like most toms do, he flew off the roost and walked away with the hens. My options were limited because of the size of the property, so the waiting game became the strategy of choice.
Two hours later, a gobble floated through the woods. Instantly the new girl answered with the most inviting sounds a slate call could produce. His response was hardy and his approach was fast, as a good dose of the silent treatment pulled him closer. Soon the low bass of a gobbler drumming signaled he was very near. Then the black blob from the morning stepped into my shooting window and miraculously transformed into a wonderfully vivid tom turkey. Once he stopped and was totally focused on my jake decoy the shot was in the air .It was little off center and the bird darted off and came to rest face down in a swamp area.
It was back at the cabin that awareness set in. The spurs were less than an inch long- indicative of a two-year-old bird, and the weight was a little less than twenty pounds. However, the beard was unlike any I had ever seen. The main beard was normal and measured nine and a half inches long, and then three of the strands extended freakishly beyond the twelve-inch mark. It was not until we checked the records with the National Wild Turkey Federation did we realize just how special he was.
An official measurement of the longest strand by NWTF standards finalized the beard at sixteen and one-quarter inches. It is at this time the longest typical beard registered by a bow hunter with the NWTF in the country. Although not registered with Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, their current records are fifteen and two sixteenths for a bow-killed bird and seventeen and thirteen sixteenths for a gun kill. The NWTF records now show that Michigan holds the top two spots for longest beards taken with a bow. For the gun hunters out there, the longest beard taken by a shotgun is an incredible twenty-two inches long! Now that takes freaky to a completely new level.