New No. 3 Multi-Bearded Gobbler In Georgia Records

The NWTF's turkey records list the best Georgia gobblers of all-time.

Mike Bolton | March 29, 2022

Finally scoring on a wily old gobbler after months and maybe even years of frustrating chase is one of the most fulfilling accomplishments in hunting. Of course, taking one of Georgia’s top all-time turkeys that you had no idea existed, and doing it without much preparation, can be quite exciting, too. One Georgia turkey hunter found that satisfaction last season.

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has a scoring system that uses beard and spur length and weight to rank gobblers nationwide and in each state. Each spring, GON revisits the lists of the top-ranked Georgia turkeys of all time. Occasionally, a bird taken from the previous season will find its place among the all-time greats. The gobbler killed by Nick Mandese in Marion County last season qualifies for that honor.

On March 28, 2021, while hunting on his father’s land, Nick took an 8-bearded bird that ranks No. 3 all-time in the atypical category in Georgia. The bird’s 21-pound-plus weight and its 1 1/4-inch spurs were impressive, but its eight beards tallied the second-most total beard length in state history. The longest beard of almost 16 inches is 10th best in state history. The bird’s critical measurements combined for an incredible overall score of 185.9375. According to NWTF records, that makes Nick’s prize the 11th best of all-time for Eastern gobblers.

With eight beards, including one that was almost 16 inches long, Nick Mandese’s Marion County gobbler was extraordinary. It is the third-best multi-bearded gobbler ever recorded from Georgia.

If you want to hear a story of a hunter who devoted every waking moment to working on strategy to take a particular bird, sorry. Nick admits it was a strange hunt without that much preparation.

“It was the first time I’ve hunted my dad’s property in three or four years,” he said. “The property around it was clearcut, and it really scattered the birds, so I quit hunting there for a while.

“I talked my wife into going hunting with me that morning. I told her it was a good chance to get out of the house and relax some. She was tired, but she agreed to go with me. 

“We set up right before daybreak on the edge of a red clover field, and I set out a hen turkey decoy. It was pretty soon after that a turkey to our right was gobbling and blowing up. He was trying to get a hen to come to him. That hen walked off, and he was trying to find her. He saw my turkey decoy and thought it was her and started coming our way. He was gobbling and strutting.

“That’s when my wife saw the other turkey about 50 yards away. She said, ‘That’s a big ol’ bird!’ He had never gobbled or strutted or anything, but when he saw the other gobbler coming to my decoy, here he came gobbling and strutting. It would have been nice to have both gobblers in range so I could have had a choice, but only that one offered me a shot.

“The whole hunt didn’t last more than an hour.”

Nick said he didn’t realize until the bird was on the ground that it had multiple beards. He counted six at first, but finally realized it was eight beards when he got them separated. Nick said he has been hunting turkey across the southeastern U.S. since he was 14 or 15, but he had never even seen such a bird.

“When I realized that I had something special, I started trying to figure out what the NWTF requires for verification,” he said. “It turned into an ordeal. First, I had trouble finding a place to get it weighed on certified scales. I found several places with certified scales, but none of them would allow me to put a dead turkey on them. It took forever to find one. Then I had to find a biologist to measure and certify everything. It turned into an all-day thing.”

Another notable Georgia bird from last season was a Wilkinson County gobbler taken by Harrison Parker, of Dublin, on March 22. It is the No. 31 best-scoring typical of all-time. The NWTF also keeps measurement rankings in the three measurement categories. The bird’s 1 3/4-inch spurs rank No. 19 on the all-time list.

Harrison Parker’s Wilkinson County gobbler had crazy-long spurs. The longest spur was a 1.75-inch hook.

Harrison said the bird was estimated to be seven or eight years old; so old that its beard was crumbling. He wondered why a bird of that age would act the way it did—it had everyone baffled.

“It was an afternoon hunt,” he explained. “I cut me a place out of some brush about 2 o’clock. It was a short hunt. You think of a bird that made it to that age as being careful and wise, but I used my mouth call once and my slate once, and he came running right into my decoys.”

When you kill an exceptional gobbler this season, make sure to contact GON. Email [email protected], or call 800.438.4663.

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