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Turkey Hunter

Turkey hunter puts Panola atop county rankings

Billy Davis

A Panola County hunter and a 25-pound gobbler have put the county on the map for turkey hunting, earning a second place in the state’s Typical Score category.

For that honor, you can thank Lauren Russell.

Russell, who is 20, bagged the bird on April 11 while hunting on family land in east Panola County. Her dad, Allen, called the gobbler up to a Pretty Boy brand decoy using a slate call.

The turkey’s weight, spur length and beard length, tabulated by a conservation officer after the kill, added up to 80.395 points. That score pushed Russell ahead of the previous second place record of 79.20.

A score of 80.57, recorded in Smith County in 2005, is Mississippi’s current top score. 

Russell’s trophy gobbler weighed in at 25.27 pounds, which barely put her in first place in the Heaviest Bird category. She beat out a weight score of 25.25.

For her feat, she received a certificate last week from Mississippi’s Wild Turkey Program, which is overseen by the Miss. Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

State wildlife biologist Adam Butler, who signed the certificate, said the bird’s weight helped push it into the state’s highest rankings.

“That’s a good-sized gobbler,” he said. “We’ve had several big birds entered this year.”

Butler surmised that good acorn crops in 2008 and 2009 have helped the turkey population put on weight over the winter.

To tally a score, the gobbler’s weight is entered as points while the beard length is doubled and the spur length is multiplied by ten.

When Russell’s score is added to the Department of Wildlife’s score charts, it will be the first entry for Panola County.

“I can tell you that a turkey that big is quite a feat,” said Jay Osbourne, regional director for the National Wildlife Turkey Federation. 

Osbourne said he has hunted turkeys for more than 25 years and has only bagged two that weighed more than 20 pounds.

“I’ve only seen two others that weighed more than 20 pounds. That’s why it’s a feat,” he said.

Russell said she and her dad waited about 20 minutes for the gobbler to get within close range of her 12-gauge shotgun.

“Daddy saw it coming and said, ‘It’s a big one. Please don’t miss,’” Russell recalled. “After I shot, he jumped up so fast he broke the slate call on his knee.”