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From one generation to the next

Westport youth R.J. King was chasing longbeards with his father, Rob, even before he could walk.

When Rob separated from his wife in the mid-1990s, he became R.J.'s full-time caregiver. That meant if he wanted to hunt, R.J. would be along in tow.

And, Rob wasn't about to give up the woods.

"I would carry him in a backpack carrier," Rob recalled. "He learned a lot about the woods at a very young age."

So, it was only fitting R.J. carried on the family tradition by bagging his first Tom during opening weekend of the spring turkey season - with his dad at the call.

"It felt awesome," 12-year-old R.J. said. "The bird looked huge on the ground."

And, indeed it wasn't small. The turkey weighed 28 pounds, had a 10-and-one-half-inch beard and one-inch spurs. A trophy by any turkey hunter's standard.

R.J. took the bird early in the morning May 3. It was a warmer than average day for early spring, R.J. recalled, as he and Rob set up and began using a crow call to entice an answer.

After awhile, the duo decided to move. The next location would prove key as Rob expertly lured the big Tom to within a few yards of his decoys with a hen call and R.J. dropped him at 10 yards.

"When he answered, he was a lot closer than we expected," R.J. said. "He was probably only 30 or 40 yards out, and dad had him to me in less than 5 minutes."

The entire hunt was over by 6:45 a.m.

The following weekend, Rob repeated the process, calling in another Tom and 14-year-old Cooper Sayward had his first longbeard as well. Cooper's bird weighed 20 pounds, had three-quarter-inch spurs and a 10-inch beard.

For Rob, the satisfaction lies in passing on his love of the hunt.

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