Even with stormy weather forecasted and a tight work schedule at Wrap-It Packaging, Barlow headed into the woods well before daylight to sneak up on a group of turkeys roosted in a sparse woodline that bordered a relic peanut field on the 6,000 acres his hunt club leases. Tipped off by companion Grier "Cuz" Copeland of Kingstree, Barlow designed a gameplan for the gobblers, hoping he'd be able to declare victory just after daylight – or so he thought.
At first light, Barlow heard several loud gobbles, with one bird sounding like it was almost within sight. He began to call back with a few clucks and yelps, the several of the gobblers responded, building his confidence. A few minutes before sunrise, he heard wing-beats coming from the source of a nearby bird that had responded to his calls with conviction.
"One glided from his tree and landed right in front of me, but just out of shotgun range," Barlow said. "I continued to call with gun in ready mode, but the bird did not seem to pay too much attention to me or my pair of decoys."
Barlow continued to call and received fewer and fewer responses as the birds moved into the nearby field.
"At 8:30, I moved into the edge of the field to get a closer look at the birds," he said. "The gobbler that was responding was there held up with a group of six hens, so I set up again closer to the field, at the base of a tree, in hopes I could pull the bird away from his hens."
Barlow continued to call until the bird moved further and further away from his position. A few minutes later, Barlow's cell phone rang, and with the turkey showing little interest in his calls, he decided to switch gears and take care of business, expediting a critical shipment to one of his most-cherished customers over the phone.
While on the phone, a gobbler sounded off close, and Barlow quietly and quickly ended the call, slowly scanning his surroundings for the willing participant.
"I cackled and yelped a few times with almost an instant response, but the bird moved away towards where I was set up earlier and once again seemed uninterested in what I had to offer," he said.
Barlow moved back to his earlier position and called for the next 45 minutes until the turkey showed up. It strutted and closed in on Barlow's decoys, and at 10 o'clock, with a few rumbles of thunder in the background and a light drizzle moving in, Barlow sent a load of shot into the head of his turkey at a range of 25 yards.
That's when he discovered that the bird was a special one. Weighing 15 pounds, 14 ounces and sporting inch-long spurs, the gobbler had seven distinct beards dangling from its feathered breast.
Beard lengths tapped out at 11 5/8 inches, 8 inches, 7 inches, 7 inches, 7 ¼ inches, 6 5/8 inches and 6 inches. The seven beards measured a total of slightly more than 53 inches, giving Barlow's bird a National Wild Turkey Federation score of 141 5/8 points, just a few points short of Tommy Drigger's 2001 Williamsburg County record for atypical gobblers.
Drigger's bird scored 146.
Barlow's bird will likely be listed as the sixth highest scoring turkey in South Carolina history.
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