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Push Yourself to the Limits

April 2019
Story by Daniel Bernhard
State: Florida
Species: Turkey

I wanted to share the story of when I harvested a turkey with a .410 judge. Opening weekend of turkey season was fast approaching in south Florida when my father-in-law, Randy Oliver, and I were watching a television show and saw Philip Culpepper from Realtree harvest a turkey with a .410 judge, and we thought we could do that. We started off looking for a turkey load that was able to be fired from the judge revolver. Once we found a round that we thought would work, we started testing and seeing what distance we thought we could get a fatal shot from. We ended up deciding that if we were going to make this happen it was going to be within five yards.


Opening day came before we knew it, and we were off to try and pull off something crazy. The first morning was windy, and it hard to hear the birds gobbling. When Randy told me he had heard a bird gobble, not hearing the bird myself, I was skeptical but trusted him being that he is a seasoned turkey hunter. We got closer, making small 5-10 yard moves at a time. I finally heard him, and we made a push to the edge of the field he was in standing all alone, strutting and showing himself off for the ladies. We came up with a plan and put it in motion. I used our full strut decoy to hide behind as I made my way towards this boss gobbler. He was standing his ground and started my direction, being weary the whole time. Once I made it to about 15 yards, he decided he didn’t want a fight that morning and turned and slowly strutted away. Crushed but still excited about such a close call, we regrouped and headed to a new spot.


On the way in to our next spot, I noticed a tail fan sticking up over the grass. It was another gobbler. This time, he had a group of hens with him. Not only did we have to not spook him, we had to not spook his hens because we knew they would take him away. That stalk was over before it even started when one of the hens didn’t like our full strut decoy and began to walk the other direction. Ultimately, she took the gobbler with her.


We decided we were still in a good location and decided to set up a decoy and sit and call for a bit. The wind had increased by this point in the day at about 9:30 a.m., so I decided to break out my box call and get some high volume clucks in the air. No sooner did I put my call down than Randy said, "Here come two gobblers." The two birds had just popped out of the oak trees in front of us. Both birds were gobbling, but we could only see their heads run out and nothing audible due to the high winds. I decided to belly crawl out to the decoys to make sure I would be within five yards because we were sure they were coming in. Once I got to the decoy, I began to spin it to add some movement. The two long beards ran full speed towards our setup until they got about 20 yards away and then something changed their minds on what was going on. At first, I thought it was me that had messed them up but then I noticed a hen heading their direction and apparently so did they. Once again, we were beat by the real thing. Having such a great day but just being mentally worn out from fighting with the birds all day, we decided to call it a day, get some rest, and head back in the morning.


The next day, we decided to set up in the same location as the day before since there were obviously birds in the area. The day could not have started any better. There was not a lick of wind, unlike the day before, and it was nice, cool spring weather. As the sun began to rise, we heard our first gobble, then another, and another. The birds were all around, and it was game on. I began to let out some soft clucks just to let them know I was there. They noticed. Multiple different birds began to gobble to my calls, cutting me off on many occasions. Once the day progressed and the turkeys began to fly down from their roost for the day, most became extremely quiet, letting out a single gobble every so often. It was very inconsistent. However, there were three that seemed to be together a long way. They were still very responsive to my calls. After multiple hours of playing cat and mouse with the three birds, we thought we had lost them because they went silent on us, so I decided to do the same. We sat for about 30 minutes with no call, and finally boom! There it was, a thunderous gobble right behind us. I let out a few soft purrs and a cluck. Boom! Another gobble so close we could feel it. Anyone who has hunted turkeys will know what I mean; you know they are close.


Here they came, three beautiful long-beard gobblers running about 50 yards away straight towards our decoys, which I had set up about three steps away. The three birds came right in to our setup perfectly. To say my heart was pounding would be an understatement. I had never been this close to any wild animal. My margin of error was extremely small, and I knew I had one shot to make it happen. Picking my spot that I had been practicing on for weeks, I heard Randy say, "Shoot him!" I slowly began to squeeze the trigger. Kaboom! After I recovered from the recoil, there were two birds running for the fence and one less than five yards doing his final flop. We had done it.


To this day, I can remember this hunt with extremely vivid detail. This is one of my greatest hunting accomplishments. People still say I was crazy for trying it, but I knew it could be done, however difficult it may be. I believe you never really know what you’re capable of unless you push yourself to the limits. To have three fully mature turkeys within five yards and to harvest one with a .410 judge pistol, now that is something that not many people can say they have ever done before and something I am extremely proud of. My bird was 16.5 lbs. with a 10.25” beard and 1.125” spurs. It was not my best Osceola, but he is by far my favorite.