Anyone that’s acquainted with Matt Courtney will tell you that he’s a die-hard turkey hunter, and in fact—he’s eaten up with it. Courtney sees success year after year, but he had no idea how this year would play out.
On March 7, the youth season opening evening, Courtney was able to lure in a nice tom for his son Reed Courtney. This was seven-year-old Reed’s very first gobbler. He shot him at 31 yards with his .410 shotgun. The big tom sported a 9-inch beard with 1 1/8-inch spurs and weighed 18 pounds. A turkey-hunting dad couldn’t be prouder.
Courtney doesn’t like to put a lot of pressure on the turkeys he hunts. He rides a golf cart around his hunting lands and uses game cameras to do a lot of his scouting. He places them in locations he has historically seen turkeys and turkey sign such as logging trails, green-fields, and dusting locations.
“Cell cameras have really changed the way I have hunted the last couple of years,” says Courtney. “I have one set up watching a stretch of logging road where I was seeing a group of long-beards travel to roost during deer season.”
The plan of attack
On the evening of March 28 an hour-and-a-half before fly-up time, Courtney received photos of two long beards walking by his camera. He knew the ridge where they should be roosted and knew where he would be sitting at daybreak.
When dawn arrived, the toms were gobbling further away than where Courtney had anticipated. The hunter quickly closed the distance heading in their direction.
“There were three or four birds gobbling. I could tell that one was separate from the others, which were bunched-up,” said Courtney, “I figured it was a group of two-year-olds and maybe a mature one by himself.”
Courtney set up on the lone gobbler which was not as vocal as the group of gobblers. The turkey flew down away from the hunter going towards the bunched-up gobblers. Considering the new growth of greenery and how it effects sounds, Courtney chose to stay put and not take the chance of getting too close to the tom and maybe spooking it.
Courtney was around 400 yards from the gobbler and would make a call every 15 minutes. The tom would answer and ever so slowly make his way towards the hunter. It took the turkey over an hour-and-a-half to get within sight of Courtney at 80 yards.
“When I could finally see the turkey, he did the craziest thing I’ve ever seen a gobbler do. As he made his way up the ridge diagonally towards me, he would stay behind a big tree and peek around one side of it—then he’d stand straight up where I couldn’t see him and then peek around the other side of the tree. He did this several times till he got within shotgun range,” recalls Courtney. “I can only guess that he couldn’t see another turkey and was very wary walking in.”
Fifteen minutes after spotting the turkey, Courtney dropped the hammer on his first gobbler of the season, and he was a monster with six beards (9”, 7”, 6 ½ ”, 7”, 6” and 3”) totaling 38 ½-inches of length. The big gobbler had 1 1/8-inch spurs and weighed 19 pounds.
On April 3, Courtney harvested his second gobbler of the year which was a double-bearded tom with a 10 ½-inch beard and an 8-inch beard with no spurs at all.
It’s been a good year at the Courtney house so far and it’s far from over. Matt already has his sights on his third Mississippi gobbler.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Mississippi Sportsman Magazine and MS-Sportsman.com.