John's Journal...

Winning with the Wind When You Hunt Turkeys in Oklahoma with Phillip Vanderpool

They Don’t All Have Longbeards

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On my recent hunt at Rut-n-Strut near Sayre, Oklahoma, with outfitter Todd Rogers and Hunter’s Specialties’ pro Phillip Vanderpool of Harrison, Arkansas, the wind was blowing hard, knocking over trees and ripping shingles off roofs. The strength and the power of the wind almost destroyed my dreams of taking two Rio Grande gobblers, until Rogers explained that, “Because these turkeys have lived in the wind their entire lives, they’ve learned how to deal with it. And so can you.”

For some reason known only to God, we were late leaving camp on the last day of the hunt. As we prepared to slip into the green field where the turkeys pitched-down when they left the roost, I could see turkeys perched in every treeClick to enlarge as we made our way to the stand. I felt certain we’d spook all the turkeys, but we didn’t. As soon as my backend hit the cushion on my Hunter’s Specialties’ turkey vest, a mature gobbler began to talk, strut and drum on the limb. We watched six or eight jakes (1-1/2-year-old gobblers) as they attempted to gobble. Finally, the jakes and the hens flew down and landed in the green field. But the gobbler stayed on the limb. As Phillip looked through his Bushnell binoculars, he whispered, “That’s a grown gobbler. He’s got a full fan and spurs. But he has a really-short beard. He must have beard rot.” As I looked through my Bushnell binoculars, I could see the gobbler had about a 3-1/2- or a 4-inch beard, and even though the stubby beard was thick, it wasn’t long. When the gobbler flew off the limb, and the sun began to rise, Phillip and I studied the gobbler. “John, that’s a mature gobbler,” Phillip reported. “He’s at least 2-years old or older. He’s got a full fan, and he’s a big turkey. This day is the last one of the hunt. I know you don’t want to shoot a jake, but I promise that’s not a jake.” As I studied the turkey through the binoculars, I could see he was a fully-mature gobbler, but that short, stubby beard turned me off. Finally, the turkey began to walk toward us, and Phillip, with some anxiety in his voice, said, Click to enlarge“John, that’s a full-grown turkey. His beard isn’t long because he’s got beard rot. But it’s your turkey, so it’s your choice to take him or not.”

Phillip knew I was reluctant to take the shot on this short-bearded turkey. So, to transfer the blame for shooting a short-bearded turkey, I told Phillip, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.” I knew Phillip didn’t want to tell me to shoot a turkey I wouldn’t be happy with, but since this was the last day of the hunt, he realized this might be my last chance to take a turkey. The gobbler was now within 30 yards, and I had my gun on my knee, but I still hadn’t decided if I wanted to take the shot. When the longbeard drifted away and was well away from the hens, I decided to take the bird. When I squeezed the trigger, the gobbler was at 40 yards and went down quickly. “Let’s go get this one and another one,” Phillip said. “I’ll call Todd and see if he has another area for us to hunt.” When I picked up the bird, I realized he weighed between 18 and 19 pounds and was a 2-year-old gobbler who just happened to have a short beard. The hunt had ended by about 9:00 am. After taking a few pictures, we put the turkey in the back of Phillip’s truck and went to meet Click to enlargeTodd, never suspecting this would be one of the greatest days of turkey hunting I’d ever have.

To learn more about the new Benelli Vinci, visit To find out more about Federal Ammunition’s heavyweight turkey shotgun shells, check out To hunt with Todd Rogers at Rut-n-Strut Guide Service, go to, email him at, or call 580-799-1920.  For more information about Hunter’s Specialties’ top-quality turkey hunting products, visit
To learn more about Bushnell’s fine optics, check out

Tomorrow: Turkey Hunting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Check back each day this week for more about "Winning with the Wind When You Hunt Turkeys in Oklahoma with Phillip Vanderpool"

Day 1: Learning the Birds
Day 2: The One That Didn’t Get Away
Day 3: Hiding and Shooting
Day 4: Turkey Hunting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Day 5: Many Lessons Learned


Entry 507, Day 3