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Smoke Grey Turkey Taken In Virginia

May 20, 2010 by  
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Written and submitted by Captain Barry Meyer, Marathon Florida. Check out his website at

Bird of a Lifetime

Every now and then something happens in the hunting or fishing world that falls into the once in a lifetime category. As a Florida Keys back country fishing guide for 25 years, I have had a couple of anglers experience this phenomenon. I fish for a living, but hunting is my passion, and spring gobbler is at the top of my list. Three years ago, Mat Timmons invited me to come to Richmond Virginia and hunt on his grandfather’s 700 acre farm, with good woods and fields, bordered by the James River. That year, Mat told me he had seen a white gobbler on the farm. We managed to spot him once in a field at 300 yards, but didn’t see him again while I was there.

Last year (2009) was a different story. Mat had just seen what we now called Whitey roosting in some big sycamore trees with several other birds. The following morning, Mat, Tac Ralston, and I slipped down to the area to see if we could hear anything. We heard several birds gobble, one of which was very distinctive, so we moved closer and set up. They hit the ground and not a peep was heard for an hour. I set my Benelli down and we took our face masks off. We whispered for a couple of minutes about a new plan. I turned my head to glance up the fire trail where the Pretty Boy decoy was set up, and there was Whitey at 70 yards, in full strut, looking right at us. He took one more step towards us, came out of strut, turned around and walked away. We had been busted. What a bird. Watching him walk away was heartbreaking.

We took a couple of real nice birds that week, then it was time for me to go home. Mat and Tac hunted the rest of the season, successfully calling in several birds for themselves and friends, but the elusive white bird still lived.

The winter of 2010 was a long hard one, and the James River flooded most of the farm twice. Mat was very concerned about the turkey and deer population. He decided to set some trail cams to see what was going on. By scouting after work, and reviewing the trail cam footage, Mat was pleased to discover good numbers of game on the farm, but had not seen Whitey for six months.

We feared that Whitey hadn’t made it, and I reflected back on that picture in my mind of Whitey in full strut, and the lessons learned: be patient and never take off your face mask. On April Fools Day 2010, my phone rang and Mat said he was sending me a picture of something via e-mail. It was Whitey strutting 20 yards in front of the trail cam, seemingly taunting us. The season opened in nine days. I already had my plane tickets and was looking forward to going, but now we had a mission, to try and get a shot at this bird. Targeting one game animal of any species on a farm surrounded by thousands of acres of woods and fields seemed impossible, but I was stoked. I called Mat every day until the season started to hear whether Whitey had been sighted, with no luck. Then, the day before opening, Mat reported sighting Whitey in a field.

I arrived after legal shooting time on Saturday, and since Mat had worked all day, the woods were undisturbed. We scouted a little on Sunday and made a plan for Monday morning. Mat generally didn’t carry his gun when I was there, designating me as the shooter, but this time was different. That morning we had six birds gobbling, three strutting within 80 yards, and two in the kill zone. It was like Jurassic Park. After about 45 minutes, I was forced to unleash my 3 ½ inch mag #5 heavy shot, taking a great bird at 30 yards. What a morning!

That evening, while doing a loop around the farm, we spotted Whitey going into a block of woods about ¾ of a mile from where Mat last saw him. We decided to be there bright and early. We set up, daylight came, and nothing. Not a gobble to be heard. We moved around, calling occasionally, and still nothing. At about 9:45 a lone gobble rang through the trees. It was that same distinctive gobble that we had heard last year. Mat looked at me and we were on the move. Mat knew every inch of the property, and said we had to get around a block of woods and to the back corner of the farm. We covered about a half a mile in a hurry, Mat is 31, but at 54, I was very glad when we could stop and set up again.

We set up on an old overgrown fence line, on opposite sides, 20 feet apart, with the idea that Whitey would come down one side or the other. Five minutes later Mat stuck his thumb up. Whitey was coming down his side. An hour went by. I could only see glimpses of his fan at about 80 yards. He was with a hen, and very slowly working our way. At 50 yards, I was about to use the video camera, when another big gobbler stepped out 20 yards in front of me. I froze, knowing that if I moved a muscle, he would spook and take Whitey with him. I heard Mat’s safety click, and at 37 yards, Mat’s Benelli did its job. The white bird was down.

Not only was he a unique color for an Eastern, but he was a monster, scoring 77 1/8. He had a 12 ¼ inch beard, 1 9/16 inch spurs, and weighed 22 pounds.

Lovett Williams, a biologist and turkey expert, who named this rare bird coloration “Smoke Grey” in 1975, said that nine out of ten of these birds ever seen are females, and that this one may well be the largest smoke grey gobbler ever taken in North America.

Very few hunters have even seen a turkey like this. Congratulations to Mat Timmons on taking the bird of a lifetime.


3 Responses to “Smoke Grey Turkey Taken In Virginia”

  1. Dan says:

    Awesome looking bird! Congrats.

  2. Abi says:

    That is a very nice article. It sounds like you guys had a great time! And what a beautiful bird!

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