Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

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Minnesota 9-year-old’s gobbler puts ‘long’ in longbeard

First-year turkey hunter, second time afield … and a tom with a paint brush of a beard that stretched to at least 12 inches. For Tenley Salzbrun, it was an experience to be remembered. (Photo courtesy of Mat Salzbrun)

Rockville, Minn. — Parental rules often are guidelines rather than actual rules. For a 9-year-old turkey hunter from Rockville, that’s fortunate.

If Tenley Salzbrun’s father had adhered strictly to his personal minimum age at which his daughters would hunt game animals, she wouldn’t have, on April 28, shot a Stearns County tom whose bushy beard measured 12 inches – a trophy appendage, indeed, and one that would rank in the state’s top 10 in length (modern firearms), based on National Wild Turkey Federation records.

But Tenley’s 10th birthday was upcoming in May. Close enough, her father, Mat Salzbrun, decided.

“With our older daughter, the rule of thumb was 10 years old,” Mat said, adding that by that age, youth typically have a better idea what to do in hunting situations.

“So Tenley’s been waiting, patiently,” he said. “She sees her older sister (Hailey, age 15) hunting deer and the whole works …”

Tenley made the most of the rule bent in her favor, during just her second hunt of the turkey season.

Very seldom does a Minnesota turkey have a beard that’s 12 inches long. A 9-year-old hunter harvested a longbeard that did.

During the Friday afternoon hunt that began around 5 p.m., she and her father readied themselves behind a blind in a wooded area near Rockville.

Young people have many excellent virtues. Patience isn’t typically among them.

“By 6:15, she was asking to leave already,” Mat said. “But I told her she needed to be patient because that’s how this whole hunting deal works.”

At around 7, the duo saw a hen turkey. Tenley was convinced that was all the action they’d encounter, Mat said. “I gave her a magic number – that we’d hunt till 7:25,” he said.

Tenley Salzbrun and her father, Mat, with the tom that Tenley shot April 28 in Stearns County during only her second session in a turkey blind.

As if by providence itself, at precisely 7:25, hens approached their blind – a fat, spitting tom in tow.

While the tom eyed the hens and Mat readied Tenley for the moment, the big bird ventured to within 7 yards of the blind, and Tenley fired her 20 gauge.

Her reaction? “She was virtually crying from the excitement,” Mat said. “The exact opposite of her older sister.”

A three-minute video shot by her father aptly demonstrates the youth’s reaction of amazement.

As the bird flops in front of the blind, Tenley asks, “Did I shoot him?” – followed by a series of “Oh, my god” and “I’m just shaking” and “I can’t believe it!”

And eventually, “Look at that beard! Oh my god, that thing’s giant!”

Mat said the tom weighed about 25 pounds and had 1 1⁄4-inch spurs.

“But it was the beard. He was a stud,” Mat said, adding that he’ll likely contact the NWTF regarding Tenley’s bird’s standing in the organization’s record-keeping.

It’s not likely the kids at St. Boniface Grade School in Cold Spring often talk turkeys after the weekend. But on May 1, at least some of them did, led by Tenley’s recounting of the tale of the super-long-bearded tom she’d tagged the previous Friday.

“It was quite the Monday morning discussion,” Mat said. “She seemed pretty proud.”

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