By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Governor Kay Ivey and Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship were thrilled to revive the dormant Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt last week as numerous Alabama landowners treated business and industry representatives to our state’s renowned turkey hunting and abundant Southern hospitality.
The Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt is a premier event that was started in 2002 and last held in 2015. The invitation list of hunters is made up of corporate CEOs, corporate presidents, outdoor and entertainment celebrities, media representatives, and sponsors. The prospect list to fill the hunt slots comes largely from recommendations by the Governor, the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. The event raises funds that benefit the many projects of the Alabama Conservation & Natural Resources Foundation, including scholarships at The University of Alabama and Auburn University.
With a format change from previous hunts, participants gathered at the Prattville Marriott for the Fly-Down Social and Auction Monday night and then departed for their hunting areas. Instead of returning all the way to Prattville for a formal Tuesday night banquet, a few hunting lodges hosted regional dinners for the landowners and hunting guests near their areas. The participants returned to Prattville Wednesday for the official scoring of the harvested turkeys and the Governor’s Awards Luncheon.
Although hunters weren’t due back to Prattville until Wednesday, rumors started to swirl that Linda Powell of firearms manufacturer Mossberg had bagged a big bird on Tuesday’s first hunt.
That rumor was confirmed when Powell and guide Justin Rock of Riverview Farms brought the huge turkey to the scoring table at the Prattville Marriott on Wednesday.
Powell’s turkey weighed a whopping 25.13 pounds and sported an 11¾-inch beard with 1 1/8-inch spurs. Under the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) scoring protocol, the final score is determined by weight, plus double the length of the beard and 10 times the length of the spurs.
Powell topped all 64 hunters with a 71.13 total score to be crowned the Grand Champion of the 2022 Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt.
Powell’s bird played coy on the opening morning of the hunt, and that was just fine with her.
“I had a turkey located, so when we went to find that turkey, naturally, he wasn’t in the same place,” Rock said. “We moved around and got close to his roost. There was a wide-open road between us and the turkey. He gobbled good, responded good. We set up on the road, thinking he would walk right down the road, and we’d be done in 30 minutes.”
However, the turkey balked. Powell and Rock changed position three times to try to intercept the bird. They set up on a ridge and started calling. The turkey approached, but the brush was so thick, the hunters couldn’t see the bird. Then came a surprise.
“He ended up out there strutting right where we started – full circle,” Rock said.
The hunters repositioned and attempted to call the gobbler down the road.
“He had a bunch of hens with him,” Rock said. “We called to the hens. They started coming our way with the gobbler behind. We could see him, but we had to wait for him to walk out from behind the brush. Miss Linda did a good job and put him down, no question about it.”
Powell, who was using Mossberg’s new Model 940 Pro Turkey shotgun, is no novice to turkey hunting with four World Slams to her credit, and she’s working on the fifth.
“I love Alabama to begin with, and it’s been several years since I’ve been here,” Powell said. “It was such a classic morning to go out and hear the gobbling. I think Justin was disappointed we didn’t get him on the first set-up, but I really wasn’t. I like the fact we had to work a little bit, and he kept responding.
“In my mind, it was just a perfect morning. It was beautiful and turkeys were gobbling.”
A close second at 68.86 total points was a person synonymous with turkey hunting – Rob Keck, former head of the NWTF now with Bass Pro Shops. Keck’s bird weighed 22.11 pounds with a 10-inch beard. One spur was 1 ¼ inches, while the other measured 1 3/8.
Keck marveled at the size of Powell’s bird and reflected on his history of turkey hunting in Alabama.
“What a turkey,” Keck said. “You don’t hear of a bird that big in Alabama. I killed my first turkey at Coosa Wildlife Management Area in 1969. I’ve never heard of a 25-pound turkey in Alabama. I don’t know what Tom Kelly would think of that.
“I had a great hunt with Ed McCurdy as my guide. We sort of struck out early, so we just started slipping around to see if we could spot one in one of the pastures. We came through a little ribbon of timber, and we saw this gobbler cutting across the pasture all by himself. I moved up the ribbon of timber onto a hill. I was looking at the fence lines because I didn’t want the turkey to get hung up on a fence.”