After beating COVID, this Georgia hunter’s return to hunting turned into the harvest of a lifetime: a gigantic, 8-bearded turkey.
“My wife and I had been in quarantine for 10 days, and though we were blessed to not have more serious symptoms, I hadn’t felt like hunting since the diagnosis,” Joey Wildes tells local Georgia Outdoor News. Once Wildes had the energy to return to the hunt, however, the Waycross resident took to his hunting club to try his hand.
“Honestly, I didn’t have a clue of what to expect in the area I was headed to hunt, but after being stuck in the house for over a week it was nice to get out in the woods,” he tells GON of the outing. After walking 150 yards and getting set up, a work call came in. He thought his hunt was over before it began. But something told Joey to give his turkey hunt a proper sendoff, at least.
“I ran out of breath after a few minutes, I could blame it on covid, or just being old and out of shape, but I wasn’t walking any farther,” Joey adds. In his remote location, Joey gave a few “aggressive” wild turkey calls. Immediately, a gobbler responded twice over.
The hunt was on. After 45 minutes of “playing cat and mouse,” the hunter says the bird “thundered back, and I knew this time he was coming right to me.”
Wildes pointed his Remington 870 toward the high ground, and there two gobblers were indeed headed straight for him.
“When their heads lined up 16 inches apart, I felt confident I could knock both birds down, and that’s when I squeezed the trigger and let the pellets fly,” he details of the fateful moment.
Gargantuan Gobbler: See Georgia Hunter’s Prize Turkey
Joey had to swim to his birds, but what he found on the other side of the water would change him as a hunter. Two of the largest turkeys he’d ever killed, let alone seen at all, lied waiting for him. One had enormous spurs. And the other? More beards than he thought possible on the game birds.
“I called some friends as I made the long wet walk back to the truck and described the bigger gobbler to them on the phone. They instantly became super excited and told me I had killed what sounded like a record-caliber tom,” he continues for GON. “I couldn’t believe it, I had heard of birds with two or three beards but nothing more than that.”
Joey’s friends were right. The gargantuan gobbler had eight total beards. After scoring the bird the next day, Wilder wound up with some unbelievable numbers.
“The eight beards measured 10 2/8, 7 6/8, 6 4/8, 7 4/8, 4 6/8, 7 3/8, 6 and 5 2/8 inches. The 20-lb., 12.6-oz. bird had spurs measuring 1 1/2 and 1 3/8 inches,” notes GON of his incredible harvest.
All in all, these measurements put Joey Wilder’s gobbler at a total score of 160.25 – making it the No. 5 Georgia turkey of all time (after meeting NWTF requirements).
“I still can’t believe it, my first double ever turkey hunting, and I killed two big toms. I managed to kill another gobbler to tag out for the season and that’s a first for me, as well. The 2021 season has been truly unforgettable,” the hunter concludes.
A turkey hunting story for the ages. Way to persevere, Joey!