PINETOPS - When Joe Fuller of Willow Spring hoisted the big gobbler he shot on April 19, he was glad to see he had shot his third bird with two beards, his last one coming the week before on a hunt in Kansas.

Most male wild turkeys have only one "beard," which is a cluster of long, hair-like feathers hanging from the chest, and are measured for trophy status by turkey hunters.

What Fuller didn't know at the time was that his turkey might be the new state and world record wild turkey (including all six subspecies), mainly because it had more than two beards, way more.

At first glance, Fuller thought the bird had two beards but when he got it back to his truck and laid it out on the tailgate, he and his hunting partner, Russ Zaft from Fuquay Varina, were amazed to find this bird had eight beards.

Each beard contributes to the total score along with weight and spur length by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) scoring method. The total score of 195.5 points, when certified and registered with the NWTF would best the previous world record by one and a half points.

Hunting on land he leases for his hunt club in Edgecombe County, Fuller set up trying to call a bird in for his partner who was on his first turkey hunt. The plan worked almost to perfection.

The bird slipped past Zaft and showed up within range of Fuller’s gun much to his surprise, ”I said to Russ, honestly, I didn’t plan this. I thought the bird was going to come to you and Russ is a super nice guy and he said, ’I don’t care,’” said Fuller.

Fuller realized this may be a bird for the book and had him weighed on certified scales and quickly took the required measurements before dropping the bird off at a local taxidermist.

Over the next few weeks, Fuller investigated the current records and realized the full potential of the bird. “I couldn’t sleep, the bird was frozen until it could be mounted and I wasn’t sure I had measured it correctly or if I had really seen eight beards,” said Fuller.

After thawing the bird this past weekend, Fuller verified the number of beards and re-measured both the spurs and the beards.

After following the scoring and measuring guidelines and having the bird and documentation witnessed, Fuller is confident it will be verified by the NWTF.

In an e-mail dated May 27, Fuller notes, “It looks like the score is going to be 195.5 and I talked to Karen [Karen Cavender, Wild Turkey Records Coordinator for NWTF] and they said it will be registered right away but the certificate will take 6 to 8 weeks to get.”

See the complete story next week in Carolina Outdoors on Thursday, including exclusive detail photos of the beards and spurs.
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
~ Aldo Leopold