First-time Carolina hunter bags six-bearded gobbler

Justin Bonds killed this six-bearded trophy gobbler on his first ever turkey hunt.

Beginner’s luck?

Justin Bonds said plenty of his buddies are telling him he’d better give up turkey hunting. And he’s only been one time.

But when that first trip results in a 21.09-pound bird sporting six beards, it’s pretty obvious that everything is going to be downhill from here on.

“Everybody told me I might as well hang it up; I’ll never top this,” said Bonds, 36, from Rockwell, N.C.

He’d been seeing turkeys on a farm in Cleveland, N.C., and on April 20, the second Saturday of North Carolina’s spring turkey season, he finally decided he had waited long enough to try hunting them.

“I see ‘em all the time, and I’ve always wanted to go turkey hunting. So I borrowed a call and decoys and a seat cushion, and I borrowed some shells from my neighbor,” Bonds said. “I knew where they were roosting and where they were coming out. So that’s where I went.”

Albino hen leads the charge

Bonds hooted on an owl call to try and locate birds on the roost before daylight. He was rewarded with gobbles from about 150 yards away.

“I found a good spot and sat down and started calling,” said Bonds, who had borrowed a Primos slate call. “I started calling, and I called up an albino hen. She raised cain, so I kept calling, trying to mock her. Behind her, I could hear three or four toms gobbling. And one sounded like he was getting closer.

Justin Bonds’ first turkey weighed more than 21 pounds and had six beards.

“I kept mocking the hen, and the gobbler came out at 100 yards. He was with five other hens. There was a little ridge in front of us, 60 or 75 yards away, and they stayed on the other side. Then they started away. When they were about 150 yards away, I started to call again.

Slight breeze on decoys seals the deal

“I had decoys in front of me, a hen and a jake, and there was a slight breeze and the decoys swiveled around. That must have caught his attention, because he went into a full strut, then he came at a dead sprint, as hard as he could run.”

Bonds let the tom get to 20 yards and dropped him with a single shot from his 12-gauge Remington 870.

“I didn’t know he was anything special, then I turned him over, looked at him and said, ‘Dang, he’s got more than one beard. Dang, he’s got five!’ I was so excited.

“Then, when I went to take the stuff I borrowed back to my neighbor, Terry McClellan, and he looked more closely, and he found the sixth beard.”

The six beards ranged in length from 6 to 11 inches and totaled 47 inches. The bird’s spurs measured 1 inch and 15/16-inch, and the bird weighed an ounce more than 21 pounds.

Acquaintances knew Bonds had something special, so they got him in touch with the National Wild Turkey Federation, and got the tom officially measured for the record book. Bonds plans to have a full-body mount of his first and best tom.

About Dan Kibler 887 Articles
Dan Kibler is the former managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.