On Saturday, April 21, hunting at Point of Neuse Plantation near Grifton in Lenoir County, Mattison lured three gobblers off the roost with two soft yelps made from his slate call behind the camouflage of his ground blind. He had no idea that one of them the one he picked out to kill would be one of the most-amazing toms ever taken in North Carolina, sporting eight beards.
They ranged in length from six to 10.875 inches, with a combined length of 56.375 inches. With spurs just under an inch long and weighing 20.75 pounds, Mattison's turkey ranks among the highest-scoring ever taken in the Tarheel State, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation's record book. If certified, it will score 151 points, tying with a Buncombe County tom taken by Dave Marcis in 2000 for fifth all-time largest in North Carolina.
Luckily, Mattison's his pre-dawn foes didn't foul up his opportunities on a cool, breezing morning. With gobblers sounding off everywhere, Mattison circled a field nearly twice in the dense fog before finally spotting the ground blind next to the woods – just in the nick of time.
"Birds were gobbling everywhere, and I began to panic when I couldn't find the blind," he said.
Finally arriving at the blind at 5:48 a.m., Mattison sat quietly for nearly 20 minutes, listening to the harmonious collection of gobblers sounding off from nearby trees. By the sound of her melodies, he could tell two adult toms and one younger male were sounding off, and he knew they would be on the ground shortly.
At 6:10, a hen yelped from several hundred yards away, quickly invigorating the roosting birds. Mattison pulled out his slate call and made a few light yelps to recapture the birds' attention. The three gobblers responded at once. Fifteen seconds later, he made a couple more soft yelps and got another quick response. Twenty seconds later, the jake plunged towards the ground blind and landed out in front.
"He sounded like a helicopter. I was worried that the bird was going to hit the blind."
The second bird, a nice tom, came down a few seconds later and landed 40 yards away to Mattison's right. Within seconds, both birds were in full strut. Before he could pull up and shoot, a third bird glided down from the roost and landed in front of the other two birds at 38 yards.
"The last bird had a big beard, and he began strutting, spitting, and drumming as soon as he hit the ground," he said.
Mattison knew the third bird was the dominant one of the three, and the thick beard dangling on its breast made it easy for him to decide which to take down. He put his sights on the turkey's wattles, and it was all over at 6:18.
"I knew it was a mature tom, but I had no idea what kind of trophy it was until I pulled the feathers back and counted the eight beards."
Point of Neuse Plantation is a 2,000-acre farm on the Neuse River that's intensely managed by Skip Valentine of Valentine Land and Timber (www.valentinelandandtimber.com), including rich food plots, habitat enhancement and strict harvest guidelines.