New York hunting buddies connect on multi-bearded gobblers [photo]

Amsterdam, N.Y. — Eric Lawler and longtime hunting buddy Jerrod Vila had a goal in mind this spring: to double up on spring gobblers. Not just on the same day, but at the same time using the popular – and often failed – “1, 2, shoot!” method.

When it works, it’s memorable.

The hunting duo had no idea just how memorable their May 6 hunt would be.

Lawler, of Huntington (Suffolk County) and Vila, of Amsterdam (Montgomery County), teamed up not just on a pair of longbeards, but two multi-bearded gobblers that forged their way into the National Wild Turkey Federation record books.

One bird sported an incredible six beards; the other three.

The only minor problem with the hunt was, who shot which bird?

“We have no idea,” said Lawler, pictured on the left in the above photo, next to Vila and his bird. “By the time we got to the birds they had flopped around about 4,000 times. But we talked it over with the NWTF and they’re going to put both our names on both birds, which we think is great.”

The pair pulled off the double on Sunday morning, after some typical close calls the previous day – one foiled by a coyote that entered the picture and another when Lawler held off on shooting a longbeard because a double wasn’t in the cards.

A spring flock – two longbeards and several hens – flew down and eventually drifted off on Sunday morning, and the pair decided to head to another spot a few miles away. When Lawler broke out his old Lynch World Champion box call and gave a few yelps, a gobbler boomed a response from close range.

“We looked at each other in complete and utter panic and knew we had to move fast,” Vila said. “We knew they were closing the distance quickly.”

In minutes, the pair of heavy-bearded birds had approached to 30 yards. Lawler readied his Remington 12 gauge, Vila his old Harrington & Richardson single-shot 10 gauge.



“You take the right and I’ll take the left.”

“1…2… Boom!”

“Our shots were so perfectly in sync that Eric looked over to me and asked ‘Did you shoot?’” Vila recalled. “I excitedly said, ‘Yeah!’”

When the pair arrived at the flopping birds, they got the surprise of their turkey-hunting lives.

“It was pretty incredible just getting a double, but when we saw the beards it was amazing,” Lawler said.

“Looking over these gobblers and coming to terms that we really did have a legitimate sextuple bearder and a very large triple bearder, it became apparent that these two birds could possibly make the record book,” Vila said.

Using the NWTF’s scoring system (weight, total beard length times two, total spur length times 10), the pair rough-scored the six-bearded gobbler at 110-115.

“As we met up with the other guys in our group at a local diner and looked up the New York state turkey records, we saw that even the low side of that estimate would easily make the top 10 largest gobblers ever harvested in New York. From there, we figured it would be in our best interest to have them both officially scored,” Vila said.

That scoring came easier than expected; the NWTF was conducting a contest a mere 45 minutes away in Cobleskill, and NWTF regional director Sean Langevin did the honors. The six-bearded bird tallied 119.35, ranking it as the fifth largest ever taken in New York. The three-bearded tom scored 86.82 and ranks 31st all time in the Empire State.

They are also 1-2 in the NWTF record books for gobblers harvested in Montgomery County.

The six-bearded gobbler taken by Lawler-Vila had beards measuring from 9.75 to 6.75 inches. It weighed 18.35 pounds and sported one-inch spurs.

The three-bearded tom had beards of 9.25, 7, and 6 inches, and spurs of one inch. It weighed a hefty 22.32 pounds.

The six-bearded tom is headed to Cally Morris’s Hazel Creek Taxidermy in Missouri.

And, since the pair have no idea who actually shot that nontypical gobbler, he’s going to do a replica mount of it so they each have one to display.

“He (Morris) said that’s the first time he’s ever had that request,” Lawler said.

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