Hunter Waltman of Kiln, Miss., killed a solid white gobbler on March 17. By then, he was intimately familiar with the animal.
Waltman’s first indication of a rare bird on the property came before he purchased the land. He was walking through the tract with his fiancee when they found a white feather. Waltman recognized it as a turkey feather.
“I picked it up and told her ‘I know what this is.’ And then when I met the neighbor, he said he’d seen a white turkey on the property for about three years. Once I purchased the land, I put up trail cameras and starting getting photos of it,” said Waltman.
On March 17, Waltman and his friend Toby Cagle of Saucier got into the woods early.
“We knew where he was roosting and had a good plan for where he would come out. I knew his morning routine thanks to the trail cameras,” he said.
They heard the bird gobble before it left the roost. Then the two hunters patiently waited throughout an hour and a half of silence. They decided it was a lost cause and got up to leave. And that’s when they saw the gobbler.
“When we got up to leave, we saw him with three hens. He was all fanned out about 80 yards away from us.
That was too far for Waltman to attempt a shot, so they hunkered down and watched the gobbler work the hens for about two hours.
“When he was done with the hens, he headed straight to us,” said Waltman.
Waltman was using a Remington 870 12-gauge with an extra-full extended choke. He knew the gun was on target out to 60 yards. So when the bird was at that distance, he pulled the trigger and sent a load of Winchester XR pellets. The turkey dropped.
“That was definitely one of the hardest turkeys I’ve ever killed. It was really awesome. I was just shaking I was so worked up,” he said.
The bird weighed 17 pounds, had a 9 ¼-inch beard, and spurs that measured slightly longer than an inch.
The turkey had solid white plumage, and its spurs and nails were also white. It had a black beard, and normal-colored eyes. It wasn’t an albino, but had a condition known as leucism, a partial loss of pigmentation which results in white, pale, or patchy skin or feather coloration.
A few people on social media questioned whether the gobbler was a domestic turkey, but Waltman’s taxidermist confirmed it was a wild turkey. Wildlife biologist Bob Eriksen with the Natural Resources Conservation Service agreed that the turkey was definitely a wild one. And a very rare one at that.