Promoting wild turkeys with the Lowcountry Longbeards
By Ford Walpole
Having fun at the 2022 Annual Banquet of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Lowcountry Longbeards Chapter. Photos provided by Tim Beckham and Lowcountry Longbeards.
Early into this year’s turkey season on April 8, the Lowcountry Longbeards chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) held their annual banquet at The Citadel’s John Monroe J. Holliday Alumni Center. More than 200 people attended the event, which raised over $20,000 for conservation.
“As a chapter, we hold our annual banquet to raise funds for conservation and to increase membership. It’s a great time to celebrate our hunting heritage with like-minded folks and raise funds for conservation,” says Tim Beckham, president of Lowcountry Longbeards.
“NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of hunting. Beckham points out that NWTF’s efforts extend far beyond turkeys: “We care deeply about our natural resources and the wild places we hunt. Our mission is to get people out and teach them about hunting and conservation. It doesn’t have to be turkeys; it can be hunting for deer or quail, or going fishing. And if you manage your property for turkeys, all game will thrive.”
This year, the title sponsor representing the “boss gobbler” was Generac. Vendors included Wadmalaw Wild Ties, Big Lake Outdoor Products, Gypsy Castaway, Rivers & Glen Trading Co., RecLand Contractors, Moody’s Ace Hardware and Cast & Blast Boats. Congresswoman Nancy Mace served as special guest, and attendees enjoyed live music from Noah Grove and excellent barbecue from Top Shelf Catering.
“A successful NWTF Hunting Heritage Banquet starts with a well-built volunteer committee. The future of conservation and our hunting heritage depends on our circles of influence,” Tim notes, recognizing fellow Lowcountry Longbeards committee members Mike Dryden, Eric Elkins. Ken Fickling, Ray Cartonia, Chris Sosnowski, Coy Brown, Tom Siwarski Sr., Tom Siwarski Jr., Brian Stanton, Matt Lambert, Josh Winningham, Rebekah Aitken, Brandon Dryden, Mary Helen Canaday, Kim Lawhon, Shannon Mattson, Dusty Steen, Gavin Fletcher and Heyward Bonner.
The Lowcountry Longbeards chapter has been in existence for the past 12 years, having grown out of the Swamp Fox chapter of NWTF. The group includes members from all over the Lowcountry to include Mount Pleasant, Awendaw, Charleston and the Sea Islands.
Each NWTF chapter has its own personality and focus, and Tim’s background certainly influences the Lowcountry Longbeards. Tim served eight years active duty in the U.S. Navy as a cryptologic technician, and he continues to serve as a civil servant for the U.S. Department of State. He discusses his philosophy regarding a distinction between work and play: “I try not to let what I do from 9 to 5 define who I am. I’m just an old country boy from Lancaster. I just really enjoy the outdoors — hunting and fishing. I am all about faith, family and the great outdoors.”
Likewise, the Lowcountry Longbeards concentrate on community and young people, focusing their efforts to promote NWTF’s programs such as JAKES for youth, Women in the Outdoors (WITO) and Wheelin’ Sportsman programs with an emphasis on disabled veterans. “We worked with the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to help reestablish a youth hunt in the Francis Marion National Forest,” Beckham says.
“We assist with projects at Tibwin Plantation, such as repairing and upgrading old blinds. With the NWTF state board, we help allocate state funds for local projects on public hunting lands. In the Francis Marion Forest, we help subsidize seed for food plots. We recently helped build a wheelchair ramp on the clubhouse at South Tibwin. In West Tibwin, we worked to help them get blinds and handicap accessible ramps. To combat poaching, we worked with the South Carolina NWTF state board to approve a motion-decoy, which DNR uses to combat poaching through Operation Game Thief.
“Before and after COVID, we started partnering with private landowners and the Outdoor Dream Foundation (ODF),” a group devoted to providing hunting opportunities for young people with serious health conditions or terminal illnesses. “I guide between three to five youth hunts on private land every year during turkey season,” Tim adds. Private landowners from Orangeburg to Moncks Corner to John’s Island offer their property for these hunts, and Tim hosts young people on his own property as well. “I take people to hunt deer and ducks as well as turkeys. If it’s in season and a kid or a woman or a veteran wants to go hunting, we will take them!” he proclaims.
“Mary Helen Canady and I took youth Dawson Winningham and his uncle Josh turkey hunting this year. We had a gobbler coming straight to us, but a hen stepped out in the road, and he followed the hen,” Tim recalls. “Even though it didn’t work out for him on that particular hunt, Dawson fell in love with turkey hunting.”
Trinity Morris enjoys clay target shooting sports with Mount Pleasant’s Palmetto Elite Shooting Team. Tim is one of her coaches, and Trinity is friends with Tim’s oldest daughter, Jaycee, now a member of Montreat College’s Clay Target Team, a scholarship athletic program at the college. Trinity, a sophomore at Lucy Beckham High School, recently accompanied Tim on a turkey hunt.
She recalls her experience in the turkey woods: “This was my first time turkey hunting. We got up before light, and we had to walk a half a mile to the blind. Once we were in the blind, we heard the turkeys fly down off the roost. We had a hen decoy in front of us. One hen flew down right past us, and another hen ran straight toward us. We heard the gobbler come out of the tree, and he started strutting in front of us.
Tim Beckham and Trinity Morris with the teenager's first turkey. The hunt was on committee member Dusty Steen’s (River- bottom Outfitters) property.
“It took me a minute and 38 seconds to shoot!” Trinity laughs. “I had a couple of chances, but I waited until the end. When I saw the gobbler, I started shaking; I do that with ducks, too. It was 15 yards away. I was really excited, and I was still shaking! I didn’t expect to get one the first time!”
Trinity elaborates on what sets turkey hunting apart from pursuing other game: “When you hear the turkeys, you get really excited. It’s different from deer or ducks because you don’t really get to hear them. I definitely plan to go turkey hunting again!” she assures us.
“I give Trinity a hard time!” Tim adds. “The bird came out into the field and was strutting. It would feed and then strut. She could have shot the gobbler nine times during the time she waited to shoot! But Trinity is a great shot. She has gone to many states with us to shoot competition clay targets. She smoked him!
“Each year, I try to guide ten hunts with kids, and I facilitate five or more that are led by chapter committee members,” Beckham says. He reflects on his motivation for his conservation and outdoors-education efforts: “When you do something you love, it’s not work. I don’t mind getting up at 3 a.m. I am not about awards and recognition. I do this because I love the outdoors. I love taking kids and veterans outdoors and being around like-minded people who love God, guns, and hunting and fishing,” declares Tim.
“For me, as a disabled veteran, the outdoors and teaching a love of the outdoors is my kind of therapy. It’s something I enjoy, and I enjoy watching others learn and grow in the sport. I always call it outdoor therapy. To be able to teach that love to a child is something they’ll never forget. Trinity will always remember that turkey hunt. Lessons we teach these young people are lifelong, and they will teach them to others and their community. That’s really paying it forward!” he says.
“When a kid gets a shot — and I have been hunting for 36 years —I am as happy as I was when I killed my first longbeard! It’s all about three things to me: conservation, community and fellowship. If you take care of these three, you are sure to have a pretty good time!” Beckham says.
Proper scouting is crucial to successful turkey hunting. Determining where the elusive birds sleep is invaluable. “The key to it is roosting the bird the night before and making them shock-gobble, and hopefully they’ll gobble on the limb the next morning. It’s not a guarantee, but it helps if you put one to bed. You increase your odds of success if you know where they roost!”
Tim Beckham loves hunting and fishing. When considering what makes turkey hunting so special, he remarks, “There’s nothing like listening to the spring turkey woods coming alive in the morning. It’s like God turning up the volume in nature when you start hearing the birds chirping and the turkeys gobbling. Springtime in the woods is just a beautiful time in God’s creation!”
For more information, check out the NWTF Lowcountry Longbeards Chapter Facebook and Instagram pages, or contact Tim at email@example.com.
Additional sponsors of the Lowcountry Longbeards annual banquet included Delta Industrial Electric Co. Inc., Fickling Wealth Management, Southern Pines Land and Timber, Carolina Power, Artemis Bag Company, Elite Lighting, the Beckham family, J. G. Murphy, the Morris family, City Electric Supply, Sanders Brothers Construction, RecLand Contractors, Turbeville Insurance Agency Inc., Dumpster Pros LLC, Operation Patriot FOB, Schirmer Forestry Services and C&S Shooting Sports.
The banquet was made possible with donations from businesses such as Rectifire’s Chokes, Haddrell’s Point Fin to Feather, Sewee Outpost, Huk/Nomad, Drake Waterfowl Systems, Carson Boozer, Salty Knots Fishing Charters, Vortex Optics, Moody’s Ace Hardware, Big J Custom Calls, Dead Bird Walking Calls and Golden Beech. In addition, River Bottom Outfitters, Fowl Mouth Taxidermy, RedFin Charters, 4 Sons Charters, Rivers & Glen Trading Co., Norte Hunters, Argentina Bird Hunts, Snee Farm Country Club, RiverTowne Country Club, Back Woods Quail Club and Southern Sound Photography all contributed their products and services.
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.