Two New Turkey Hunters Take Big Birds In 2022
NWTF’s online ranking system is not functioning after a website update, but they are still taking submissions.
Mike Bolton | April 2, 2023
Lynn Darsey is a frustrated mom.
Her son, Cannon, took his first turkey ever last season, and it was a doozy. She, and a lot of others, believe the 11-year-old’s gobbler is one of the best-scoring typical birds in Georgia history.
Where exactly that bird ranks among other typical Georgia gobblers is unknown, however. Normally, a quick look at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Record Search would list the Peach State’s top birds in order from first, second, third and so on.
That program began in the fall of 1982 and has amassed more than 27,000 registered birds. It is in disarray these days. Even NWTF officials don’t know where Cannon’s bird ranks.
For the record, Cannon’s Lanier County turkey had a 13 1/2-inch beard, 1 1/2-inch spurs and weighed 23 pounds. NWTF has confirmed those numbers and sent him a certificate attesting to that. If you run the NWTF formula (see page 44) using the numbers from Cannon’s bird, it scores 80. However, NWTF lists the bird as scoring 80.125.
Lynn has spent hours trying to get the proper recognition for her son, but she has gotten nowhere.
“It is very difficult to get in touch with a live human at the headquarters and even more impossible to get them to return messages,” she said. “I have talked to the NWTF numerous times trying to get an answer. They admit there are problems, and they just don’t know where it ranks.”
NWTF Communications Director Pete Muller offered this in an email.
“My apologies. I have spoken with turkey records folks, and they are experiencing some issues with the ranking. It’s definitely a problem… but with the issues with the search system, I am not sure when I can get an exact count for its ranking (Cannon Darsey’s gobbler).”
GON took the NWTF turkey record charts that were published in the April 2022 issue of GON and published them in this article, adding Cannon’s bird to the rankings, although not giving it a ranking number.
Cannon’s uncle, Brad Hamm, tells the story for his shy nephew, who killed his record-class bird with a single-shot .410 youth model shotgun.
“We were hunting family land in Lanier County,” he said. “It was Cannon’s first year of hunting. On opening weekend, we called in a bird, and he missed. He was heartbroken.”
Cannon’s miss only made his uncle more determined. They set their sights on a big turkey that Brad knew was in the area.
“I had seen this bird several times throughout the season,” he said. “On April 24, we hunted that morning starting before daylight, and the gobblers were still henned up until after lunch.
“We went back in the afternoon and set up on a big food plot. We set out some decoys. I made a call and got a response. The big gobbler came in with the three jakes and came to the decoys. It was textbook.
“They were about 25 or 26 yards away. Cannon’s gun has a red dot laser on it. He kept putting it on the gobbler’s head, but the jakes kept getting in the way. The birds kept going left and right. Finally, Cannon got a shot, and he dusted him. He dropped like a dishrag right there.
“We went over to the bird, and I told Cannon that he didn’t realize what he had killed. It was a monster of a bird. People have hunted all of their lives and never killed a bird like that. For that to be his first turkey was unbelievable.”
Needless-to-say, 2022 was a great hunting year for Cannon. He also took his first deer. It was a 12-point, and it was entered in the GON’s Truck-Buck contest.
The year 2022 was a great year for Georgia turkey hunting novices. Cody Williamson, of Oak Park, also took his first bird, and like Cannon’s, it was a standout. The Emanuel County bird boasted three beards totaling 25 1/2 inches, and the gobbler weighed 23 1/2 pounds. Cody said he spent three years learning about turkey hunting from “two pretty good turkey hunters,” but everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
“It would never work out,” he said. “I had gobblers within 15 feet and couldn’t get a shot,” he said.
Everything changed on April 16 of last season.
“I had been learning how to use a mouth call and finally thought I had it figured out,” he said. “My buddy was over in Alabama hunting, so I decided to take my girlfriend hunting to a friend’s place.
“I got set up and called, and a turkey gobbled on the roost. He just kept gobbling. He probably gobbled 80 times. He finally flew down in the opposite direction, but he circled back. I shot him.
“I really didn’t know what I had. I threw him in the back of the truck. My girlfriend and I went to breakfast.”
At the restaurant, a turkey hunter saw the bird in the back of the truck and had a tape measure with him. He started measuring beards. He picked up the bird. He said it was heavy. He told Cody what he had.
“When my buddy got back from Alabama, he did the official measuring,” Cody said. “I paid double to get him mounted quickly. I got him gobbling because he gobbled so much that day.”
Cody also acquired a new hunting partner that day.
“My girlfriend says she has to go with me every time I go because she’s the one with all the luck,” he said.
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