Spring gobbler hunting has always been a popular tradition among members of the Commonwealth hunting community. Combine the effect of Covid 19 and all the youngsters that took to the woods for the first time that season when schools went virtual and you had a noticeable bump in interest that continues now, some three seasons later.
Green Top Sporting Goods has always been ahead of trends and last year they introduced a new way to enjoy spring turkey season with the inaugural Long Beard Battle. This year continued the new tradition. This is a special promotion intended to encourage youth hunters aged 15 and under to participate in the spring hunting season.
Participants hunted the weekend of April 1-2, and were required to bring their harvested birds to Green Top for official weighing and measuring. Top finishers were announced with substantial prizes from sponsors.
We caught up with Todd Sadler, Green Top Long Beard Battle Coordinator and he told W2, “The inspiration behind the event is simple. As hunters, anglers, conservationists, etc., we understand that the future of our collective passions is in the hands of the next generation. Youth involvement is key to continuing the traditions that we hold so close. Events like this will hopefully serve to light that fire in a young person that can grow, and hopefully one day be passed on again. I think as hunters and anglers we understand our love for the outdoors.
“I also believe that most of us would agree, that there are few things more incredible than watching a youngster hear his or her first gobbler in the spring, see that first duck pitch and drop into the decoys or feel that first tug on the other end of the line. This event just serves as a chance to nudge or incentivize some of those adults out there to help make these things happen.”
Some might remember the One Shot turkey promotion championed by past DWR Director Bob Duncan a few years back and note the similarity, and Sadler admits being inspired.
“Having worked with DWR in the past with some of the free fishing events that they put on each year, I was inspired. Having seen firsthand the looks on some of these kid’s faces when they experienced something like that for the first time, it was incredible.”
The rules for the Long Beard Battle are simple: 1) You must be a youth hunter age 15 or under, 2) If you legally harvest a bird on the weekend of April 1-2, that bird MUST be brought to Green Top to be weighed and measured.
According to Sadler, the 2023 Green Top Long Beard Battle drew 100 pre-registered hunters that brought in 34 birds. Hunters aged four to 15 participated.
Grand Champion Hudgins Eberly harvested a 22-pound gobbler that scored 73 to top all entries. Runner up Nolan Neale had a 23-2-pound bird and scored 67.25. Second runner up Jacob Rollins bird was the heaviest of the event at 24.7 pounds, scoring 67.0625 points.
The Long Beard Young Gun recognition went to Bradon Neale with a 20-9 bird that scored 60.4375 points.
Nathan Cawthorne brought in a turkey with the longest beard at 12.0625 inches.
“I congratulate our top finishers and thank everyone that participated. We were able to partner with some of the best names in the industry when it comes to turkey hunting and included their merchandise as prizes. The prize packs included decoys, calls, and other turkey hunting gear, from companies like Avian-X decoys, Zink Calls, Hunters Specialties, Oaklan Farm Calls and more. There was a swag bag with some turkey gear in it this year for each participant that entered a bird. Trophies were back as well, including the first place Long Beard Battle cup where the name of the Grand Champion of each year is added, with plaques for 2nd and 3rd.”
“All we want on our end is to see a bunch of smiling faces,” said Sadler.
“This event isn’t about Green Top giving these kids an opportunity to turkey hunt. It’s about wanting to share their joy and love of the outdoors. It’s about seeing those smiles and proud looks as the adults stand back and watch young men and women weigh in birds that THEY harvested. It’s THEIR opportunity to stand in the spot light. That is what we want to be. We want to help them share their moment. With that comes prize packs and trophies, and bragging rights. It’s our hope that this will become a annual tradition here at Green Top to start our spring turkey season each and every year.”