Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Turkey hunters could break harvest record

Springfield – As spring turkey hunting wound down, harvest
numbers were climbing.

Totals still are being calculated for the 2008 seasons – they
ended May 15 in the north zone and May 8 in the south zone – but it
seems very possible a new state record tally could be put in the
books.

The spring record was set in 2006, when a total of 16,607 birds
were taken. As of May 5, with one week of hunting remaining in the
south zone and two weeks left in the north zone, the total harvest
stood at 11,494 turkeys

With four of five seasons completed, south zone hunters had
harvested 4,690 birds, up from the 4,638 taken during that same
period in 2007.

Through three complete seasons, north zone hunters had harvested
6,169 turkeys, more than the 5,493 taken during that same period a
year ago.

Illinois’ spring 2007 turkey harvest totaled 14,767.

Meanwhile, at least one young hunter is already in the books.
Jesse Tucker, of O’Fallon, shot a 5-bearded tom that is expected to
earn the second-highest score for an atypical Eastern wild turkey
in Illinois state history.

Tucker, 13, took the bird while hunting with his father in St.
Clair County on April 10. His gobbler had a certified score of 125
on the National Wild Turkey Federation scoring system, placing it
second all-time on the state list.

The state record belongs to Stephen Knebel, who last spring
bagged a Hardin County tom that scored 149.4.

The NWTF began keeping records in 1982. In its scoring system,
three factors comprise the score: weight, combined length of both
spurs (which is multiplied by 10) and combined length of each beard
(which is multiplied by two).

Adding those three figures together produces a final score.
Tucker’s 2-year-old tom weighed 22 pounds, had 11/4-inch spurs and
had a total beard length of 39 inches.

What set Tucker’s tom apart were the five beards. The biggest
beard was 101/2 inches and the smallest beard was 41/2 inches. The
other three were 8 inches.

“Those beards are something akin to an old buck’s antlers,” said
Tucker’s father, Steven Tucker. “It’s not normal to have these
kinds of birds around here. They are an anomaly.”

According to Jesse Tucker, his dad worked the tom across the
field with a mouth diaphragm. The gobbler spotted one of the
hunters’ decoys and came in quickly, with his fan tail in full
bloom.

“He saw that decoy and it only took him about five minutes to
cross the field,” Steven Tucker said. “He came in a full strut and
came in with an attitude. He walked right up to the decoy.”

Jesse Tucker readied his Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and the
rest was history. His name will become part of the record book once
the NWTF processes his paperwork.

“We didn’t know how the weather was going to play out and affect
the seasons, but we’re starting to see that it didn’t matter,” Paul
Shelton, DNR wildlife program manager, said. “The turkeys seem to
be active, and the hunters seemed to take advantage of that.”

Breaking down the one-week seasons, Shelton pointed out that
hunters in the south zone did the best in the first two weeks. The
harvests, beginning with the first season were (2007 totals in
parentheses): 1,430 (1,477), 1,151 (1,125), 1,064 (1,002) and 1,045
(1,034).

North zone season breakdowns were 2,510 (2,288), 2,112 (1,793)
and 1,547 (1,412).

Final tallies for the spring 2008 turkey season – and whether or
not Illinois hunters broke the state harvest record – will be
reported in the May 30 issue of Outdoor News.

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