Thirty-one-year-old Dustin Pole who lives in Welsh, was understandably disappointed when his name was not drawn for the first of three lottery turkey hunts on West Bay wildlife management area this past season. Third time, though, proved to be charmed as he was selected for the third and final lottery hunt, a venture that resulted in Pole bagging what is unofficially a new state non-typical record for wild turkeys.
“I had gotten to take my nine-year-old cousin on a youth hunt on West Bay this year and called up a gobbler for him. Unfortunately,” said Pole, “he missed.”
When he was notified of his selection for the third lottery hunt slated for the weekend of April 6 and 7, Pole went to the area he planned to hunt Friday afternoon to try and locate a bird to hunt the following morning.
“A flock of crows began cawing causing a gobbler to shock-gobble down in the bottom across the clear-cut near where I parked. I walked back to the truck waiting until fly-up time when another truck drove in from the other side of the clear cut. I was able to hear a turkey fly up to roost so I was ready for the next morning’s hunt,” said Pole.
When he got to his spot the next morning long before daylight, a truck was parked where he’d planned to park. Pole decided to ease around to another road that led to the area.
“I parked and eased into the woods, waiting for daylight. As it started getting light, I heard two gobblers each gobble only one time. I didn’t call because I knew hunting pressure had made the birds wary of calls so I waited until I heard them fly down before softly yelping and clucking on my diaphragm call,” Pole said.
Never getting a response from these gobblers after fly-down, Pole began concentrating on another gobbler he heard behind him, one that gobbled several times.
“I decided to try for him and began easing down an old road, rounded a bend and the gobbler was standing in the road. I’m not sure if he saw me but about that time, a coyote came running down the road and that about sealed the deal; this turkey had been seriously spooked,” he continued.
Pole gave it a few minutes and eased into the woods toward where the spooked bird had gone, hoping he’d eventually settle down and start gobbling. This gobbler never did but another one began gobbling out in front a couple hundred yards.
“I eased in to within 100 yards or so toward the bird and made the decision to try and get him fired up. Soft calling had produced little or no response so I stuck my Primes diaphragm call in my mouth and showered down on him with loud yelps and cuts. That got him fired up and he started gobbling steadily and getting closer. A minute later, he came strutting in and I shot him at 15 yards,” said Pole.
Pole had no idea what he had; he just knew he’d killed a nice mature gobbler until further exam revealed not one but SIX beards. Friends suggested that such an unusual bird may qualify for some sort of state record. Pole contacted the National Wild Turkey Federation for instructions and when the score of 134.625 was totaled, Pole was stunned to note that gobbler, if officially approved, now sits atop the state list for non-typical gobblers taken in Louisiana, besting the current record by almost eight points.
For the record verified by two witnesses — Dustin Pole’s gobbler weighed 19.125 pounds, had spurs of 1.18 and 1.25 inches and six beards with lengths in inches as follows: 11.06; 8.5, 6.75, 6.5, 6.5 and 6.25, for a total of over 45.5 inches.
Will he have the gobbler mounted? Before realizing his gobbler may be a state record, Pole had already decided the gobbler’s fate.
“I got to thinking,” he recalled “about how good that turkey breast soaked in buttermilk and chicken-fried would taste — so I ate him.”