Just how spry is Horseheads, New York’s Pearl Sutphen at 96 years old?

As perhaps the most-endeared parishioner of Breesport Baptist Church, her trademark quick wit and smile are legendary. In fact, she often inspires younger church members with her faith and humor.

Last year, at a mere 95 years of age, Pearl delighted members of the congregation when she took a turn on a waterslide at a church-sponsored retreat.

This past January, during Church Sportsmen’s Day, event host and guide Joe Sears of Adventure Game Calls and Guide Service in Spencer, NY asked Pearl to help him demonstrate his turkey calls.


“She pretty much stole the show,” Sears told Ithaca Journal outdoor writer, Dave Henderson. “Before I knew it, she was saying, ‘Sure Joe, I’d love to go hunting with you!”

So Sears made arrangements to take Pearl on her first-ever turkey hunt this May. (She said she’d hunted deer before, but couldn’t remember the last year.) He scouted an area in Tompkins County and set up a blind where he could place his frail but enthusiastic hunter. The first two attempts had disappointing results, with Pearl missing one shot at a gobbler.

Then, early on the morning of May 30, as she shared a camouflaged blind with hunter Bob Burdick, Sears’ expert calling attracted the attention of several hens and gobblers.

“At one point when the turkeys were walking away from us, I began to pray out loud,” Sears was quoted as saying in The Owego Pennysaver newspaper. “I believe I heard Pearl and Bob praying as well. With a couple more calls the turkeys headed back our way.”

That’s when Sears instructed Pearl to shoot.

“It was like the Lord answered our prayers,” he said, after the hunter born on December 9, 1911 connected on an 18-pound bird with her 20-gauge shotgun.

What was her reaction?

“Praise the Lord!” she exclaimed.