Two out of three ain’t bad, especially if one of them is really special. That’s got to be the way that David Moore of Kinston is feeling after two of his three 13-year-old triplet sons, Will and Joel, killed monster Lenoir County gobblers on April 4, the opening day of North Carolina’s week-long youth-only turkey season – with Joel’s bird being a rare, “smoke phase” gobbler.
Will and Robbie Moore, the third triplet who is more of a fishermen than his brothers, also killed birds on opening day of the 2013 youth-only season, but this year’s birds will be hard to top.
At 6:45 a.m., David and Will Moore were hunting on a private farm near Kinston when a handful of turkeys flew down from their roost.
“We were at the corner in a field, and we called to them and he came around the corner and Will shot him,” David Moore said. “They were going to some other birds that were behind us, and we just started calling and them came right to us. Two gobblers were in line, and I told Will to shoot the second one, because it was bigger.”
Will Moore’s gobbler weighed 21 pounds, carried a 9 ¾-inch beard and had 1-inch spurs.
But the day was only beginning for the Moore family. David Moore said that Joel was in a blind with an adult friend, about 500 yards across the same field when Will Moore killed his bird.
“We knew there were two bunches of birds, and they were getting together, but they scattered after the shot,” David Moore said, and they never went to the side of the field where Joel was hunting.
“We went to the restaurant at lunch, and Joel and this other guy went to another farm about 6 miles from where Will killed his bird that morning,” David Moore said.
“This bird was gobbling in a field, and they were around the corner of this field from him, and they slipped up the edge to about 100 yards,” he said. “They called to the bird, and he came back up around the corner to them, and Joel shot him.”
Joel Moore’s gobbler, taken about 2:30 p.m., weighed 21 ½ pounds, sported 1 ¼-inch spurs and had four beards that measured a total of slightly more than 22 inches.
But the gobbler’s size, spurs and beards weren’t its most impressive physical feature. It was his plumage, a mixture of black and grey/white, an unusual color phase known as the “smoke” phase. The National Wild Turkey Federation says in its website that these birds appear white from a distance, but upon closer examination, the birds have black areas on feathers, but the normal brown and bronze pigments are absent, replaced with white. The NWTF said the color phase is a recessive trait that is more frequently seen in hens, but some smoke-phase gobblers are killed every spring around the country.
“I figured everybody who say he’d killed a gobbler that was part tame turkey,” said David Moore, who put in a call to a friend, Mark Jones, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“He looked at it and he told me, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got there.’ He said it was a smoke phase turkey, which is very rare.”
Moore said the turkey with the unusual plumage was a big surprise to all the turkey hunters in the area. He said no one has admitted to ever seeing the strange gobbler before, even though it was most certainly at least 3 years old to have grown the spurs it had and the body weight it carried.