The 2011 fall turkey hunting season taught me there is a record book for wild turkey hunting. This week I was out turkey hunting in southeastern Michigan when I was lucky enough to get my first crossbow kill. Two tom turkeys walked passed my blind and at 25 yards, they actually took enough time for me to figure out which one of them was the largest of the two birds.
After I decided which turkey I wanted to harvest, I took the shot. The bolt out of my 10-point crossbow found its mark and the two turkeys jumped up as if they both had been hit. The only difference was when they hit the ground to run away only one of them actually ran. The one I took the shot on hit the ground and never moved again.
Sometimes I Hate Following the Rules
I sat in my blind for 25 minutes because as soon as the turkey that survived figured out that his partner was not running with him, he turned and came slowly back by my blind. He paced back and forth for over 20 minutes, as if he could not figure out what had just happened. In Michigan, you are only aloud to harvest one turkey per season so I had to wait and let him decide it was time to move on. As I sat and waited and waited, I remember wishing that Michigan did not have this one-turkey rule.
When the coast was clear, I went to check out my turkey. Before I inspected my kill, I took a quick look around for my bolt but found nothing. I turned to pick up my bird and found that the bolt was still in the side of him and it only stopped because it hit the opposite side wing joint. I picked up the bird and carried it back to my truck so I could head home.
To Mount or Not to Mount
Before I headed home, I decided I was going to gut him. Then I thought I might have him mounted because he was not only my first turkey with a crossbow, but my biggest bird yet. I started to take a quick look and make sure the bird was suitable for mounting only to find that his tail feathers were half gone. It kind of looked like he either had a run in with some coyotes or had been fighting with other toms and got the short end of the stick. Given his size, I leaned more towards the coyotes and less towards the toms.
I was disappointed that his fan was not going to be able to be put on display in my house. While this was going to make my wife happy, I started wondered if there was a record book for turkeys. This turkey had a beard on him that seemed to be four inches longer than my next largest bird and had a diameter of the beard that was at least two times that of any bird that I have ever shot. I decided to not gut him, in case weight came into play, and raced home so I could surf the internet.
Man or Turkey – Size Matters
When I arrived home I opened the computer and went straight to Google and put in “scoring wild turkey” and the first site to come up was National Wild Turkey Federation. I clicked on it and it took me to a step-by-step instruction on how to score turkeys.
I took these instructions and went out to score my bird.
- The first measurement was the weight. In my mind the turkey weighed 25 or more pounds. After I had him weighed, I knew he only weighed 18 pounds and 13 ounces. According to the direction, this coverts to a decimal point of 18.825 points.
- The second step was to measure the spur in inches and again convert to decimal. Both spurs measure exactly the same at 1.125, which gave 1.125 times two spurs times a multiplier of 10 for a total of 22.50 points. Did I lose you? Thankfully I’m good at numbers, so I was actually following along with this whole process.
- The last requirement was the beard length and it measured 10.750 (10 ¾) inches times a multiplier of two for a total of 21.50 points. When I added this up I came up with 18.825+22.50+21.50 or a total of 62.825 points.
The National Wild Turkey Federation Record Book
Now I had to ask myself, was this score any good? I did some more research and found that the National Wild Turkey Federation has a record book where they house entries for pretty much the same criteria as I’ve always used for deer. It includes turkey species, weapon used, gender of the hunter, atypical or typical, and state harvested. The only thing that was different was the definition of atypical versus typical. If a bird has more than one beard or two spurs it is considered atypical. A bird with one beard and two spurs is considered typical.
Since my bird was taken with a crossbow and Michigan only legalized crossbows for everyone two years ago, there were very few entries. The chart below summarizes where my turkey lands on the charts according to NWTF.
These charts are only estimates and hopefully will be correct and recognized.
Constants: Eastern Species, All Genders, and Typical
|Beard Length||1st||Tied for 6th||Tied for 22nd|
|Spur Length||2nd||Tied for 5th||Tied for 15th|
Note that this is what I estimated by looking at the chart and assumes my score was correct and accepted by the NWTF. I have to call the NWTF to see if I need to have the turkey officially scored or if my pictures are adequate.
Either way, it was fun learning about scoring and the few hours I wondered, “what if I just shot a state record?” Even though I did not, it was cool looking at the other entries. It’s also cool to know the NWTF makes it really easy to score your turkey.
The Moral of this Turkey Hunting Story
Don’t underestimate your kill. If you find yourself with a monster, take the time to investigate the record books. I’m glad I did, even if my turkey wasn’t the record holder. It might not be number one, but it is still pretty darn cool.