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At 84, Betty bags her bird

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:20 PM

Lebanon's Betty Whitner, 84 years young, bagged what is certain to go down as one of the biggest gobblers taken during Tennessee's spring turkey season.

The big bird tipped the scales at a whopping 25 pounds, and any gobbler over 20 pounds is considered a big one.

It had a 10-inch beard and spurs that measured over one inch long.

"It was exciting to see it come strutting in," says Betty, who shot the turkey around 7:30 a.m. on an April 2 hunt.

Betty's husband Carroll called the gobbler in.

"He's the best turkey caller there is," Betty says. "He has a bunch of different calls and he can really get the turkeys to come running. He called my turkey out of the woods and it came strutting across the field. It got closer and closer, and Carroll finally whispered, 'If you don't shoot it, I'm going to.' I put the little dot on my scope on the turkey's neck and pulled the trigger. Down it went."

Carroll later bagged a gobbler that weighed 23 pounds and had a 9 1/2-inch beard. Impressive, but not as big as Betty's.

"The season's not over, and we plan to do some more hunting, so he still has a chance to beat me," she says with a laugh.

"I've always enjoyed hunting," Betty says, "but I gave it up to raise our four children. That kept me busy for several years. Once the children were grown, I stated hunting again."

"She's a good hunter," Carroll says. "She enjoys it and she really sticks with it. She will sit there as long as I will, and never gets restless."

During last spring's turkey season Betty bagged two gobblers, and during the fall deer season she collected 8-point and 6-point bucks.

"I'm catching up on those years I lost out on," she says, again with a chuckle.

Betty and Carroll met while students  at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, and married in 1952. They moved to Lebanon in the 1980's, and do most of their hunting on their Wilson County farm.

"When I'm hunting I feel young," Betty says. "I love being outdoors in God's world. I enjoy observing nature, and turkey hunting is a perfect way to do it because you have to sit still and keep quiet."

Sometimes, like all turkey hunters, Betty wishes gobblers weren't such early risers.

"It's not easy to get up at 4 a.m.," she says, "but you need to be out there before the sun comes up. It's worth it to get to see those beautiful sunrises that we might otherwise sleep through."

The spurs from Betty's latest gobbler will join several others on a necklace made from spurs collected during past hunts. And she's not finished yet -- she still has three birds left on her season limit.

Hunting, in addition to being an exciting outdoors experience, is also a way for Betty and Carroll to spend some golden-years time together.

"To be able to do something together that we both love adds to the enjoyment," she says. "We're very blessed."

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