With all due respect to the National Wild Turkey Federation and its gobbler scoring system, I think it's time for the organization to rethink its protocol for measuring beard length. On its website, NWTF gives explicit instructions on how to measure a beard, prefacing them with the directive, "all measurements are taken in 1/16-inch increments and converted to decimal form."
Stop right there. 1/16-inch increments? Decimal form? My head is starting to hurt, from both eye strain and trying to divide 5 by 16. Even the Boone and Crockett Club, which keeps score like no other, doesn't go to such laborious extremes. Since 1950, it has measured to the nearest 1/8 inch and kept the results in good ol' fractions for fun, easy math. Decimals have no place in the woods. We run to the woods to escape decimals. Come on, NWTF!
In fact, I think the official NWTF scoring system is downright prejudiced against at least two factions of hunters. First is the lifelong turkey hunter who has been at the game for five or more decades. NWTF demands this person--someone who because of the cruelties imposed by advanced age can barely tell which end of the striker to hold--to see the minuscule tick marks on a measuring tape designating that all-important 1/16-inch increment. The best this poor fellow can do is measure to the closest 1/2, and he ends up losing points. The beard from the new world-record Eastern bird could be lying unrecognized in a shoe box as you read this, simply because the seasoned hunter who collected it couldn't squint tightly enough to discern its true length. That's not fair.
Younger hunters are cheated out of glory, magazine covers and lucrative product endorsements by the system, too. NWTF is even more unkind to this group, because the tweens, teens and 20-somethings of today don't even know what 1/16 of an inch is. Lacking the life lessons bestowed by a solid semester spent in high-school shop class, they've never seen, let alone used, a measuring tape. Until there's an app for that, they don't stand a chance of scoring their birds by NWTF standards. I thought the goal was removing barriers to youth hunter participation.
My solution is a simple one, and I know it works because I've seen it in practice. Enter RBF's PA Mountain Turkey Beard Measurin Stick. This straightforward device makes it fast and easy to accurately determine the length of a beard. Invented by RBF of Beech Creek, Pa., (who happens to fall into the seasoned hunter category) the Measurin Stick takes the arduous chore of dealing with uncooperative steel tapes and numbers completely out of the equation.
Handcrafted in the USA from premium, American hardwood, the Measurin Stick features two notches precisely located at 10 and 11 inches. The entire length of the stick stretches 12 inches. To use the device, gather three or four of your turkey hunting buddies. It's best to pick from those who haven't killed a bird yet. Place the beard on a flat, well-lit surface, and with much fanfare, slowly lay the Measurin Stick beside it. Beard length will be instantly apparent. If the beard falls between the notches, round up. If it's longer than the stick, immediately call your local NWTF representative. Should the beard fail to make the first notch, there's no need to worry about the record book.
"Ain't no notches under 10 inches cuz there ain't no need for 'em when you know how to hunt," barks RBF.
NWTF could vastly simplify its scoring process and remove unfair barriers to participation by using the Measurin Stick. Beards would be classified as "1-notch," "2-notch" or "whole-stick" entries. Forget fractions, decimals and tape measures. Any bird with a beard that hits a mark on the Measurin Stick is a good one, and that's no joke.