If Mineville resident Brenda Sherman tells you the length of the beard on the gobbler she shot this spring was 19 inches, you're not hearing things.
That's because Sherman's tom - the first she's ever shot -had not one, but three beards, a rarity found in only a very small population of the wild birds.
Because turkeys are scored cumulatively, all three beards - two at 7.5 inches and one at 4 inches - count toward the final tally, making Sherman's longbeard a once-in-a-lifetime trophy.
Brenda's husband Jimmer called the bird in for her during the early morning hours of May 7, after carefully placing three hen decoys along with a jake trailing behind in a small opening along a field. The couple then climbed into their ground blind to wait for shooting light.
"Around 5:15 a train went through and blew its whistle. To my surprise this tom gobbled on his roost about 150 yards away. I waited until it was pretty light out and gave a couple of soft yelps and a few purrs just to let him know he had company, " Jimmer said.
Sure enough, the tom came looking for love, but hungup about 80 yards out, before turning and slowly walking away from the Mossberg 835 ULTI-MAG Jimmer had given Brenda.
Jimmer knew he had to do something.
"I then took my chances and really made that old slate call make some noise," Jimmer recalled. "He stopped, turned around and responded. I gave it to him again aggressively. He closed the distance by about 20 feet and gobbled again! I repeated the same aggressive calling and he started closing the distance by 20-30 feet each time."
Jimmer turned to Brenda and told her to be ready. When the bird closed to 25 yards, Jimmer whispered "take him."