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."
"That old 12 gauge roared and wings started fluttering," Jimmer said.
It wasn't the first longbeard that fell victim to Jimmer's Mossberg - both his sons harvested their first birds with it as well, the first a 21-pound brute with a paint brush beard for Travis and the second a double spurred 18-pounder for Carl, also a rarity.
Brenda's tom weighed 18 pounds and had 3/4-inch spurs.
While the Shermans were certainly successful during this spring's turkey season, state biologists are predicting the weather-crossed season may produce a smaller than expected bag.
The state is still in the process of conducting surveys for harvest estimates, but by all accounts it most likely will not be as high as the 2010 harvest of 25,800 birds, and will be well below the 10-year average of about 34,000 birds.
Even more disturbing is the fact that soggy, flooded ground made for some of the poorest nesting conditions in years, which biologists fear will mean the number of poults per hen will be down dramatically, the effects of which may be felt for the next several seasons.
In other related outdoor news:
• The DEC is proposing a ban on all motors except electric motors on Thirteenth Lake in North River. Comments on the new regulation are being accepted until July 2, and can be directed to: Peter Frank, Bureau of Forest Preserve, NYS DEC, Division of Lands & Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233, and;
• The Lake George Fishing Alliance just announced the successful stocking of 34,000 Atlantic salmon in Lake George on June 6-7. Of those, 17,000 were stocked in the north basin and 17,000 in the south by LGA members, lake stewards and DEC employees. The 5-7 inch juvenile fish were released in deep water this year by 12 participating boats instead of from shore and docks in hopes that the mortality rate would be lower.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org