Jump to content


Turkeys Age?

  • Please log in to reply
4 replies to this topic

#1 Spirithawk


    Never Logs Off

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,343 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 13 May 2006 - 09:37 AM

Can anyone tell me how to judge a Tom's age? I'm guessing Paul or Leo can. :yes:

#2 paturbo


    Totally Addicted

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,243 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 13 May 2006 - 10:06 AM

Hope this helps.


Turkey Parts -- What They Tell Us
The flight feathers that are called "primary" feathers are the ones that allow the bird to fly, without these further most feathers he becomes flightless. From these feathers especially the 10th primary you can tell the approximate age.
The Juvenile, 1 to 1 1/2 years old: This bird will have a very smooth pointed feather that is dark in color with a few white spots.
The Adult, 2 to 3 years old: This bird will have a rounded end to his feathers and also wider than the juvenile. It will have larger an wider white spots nearly to the tip of the feather.
The Old Gobbler, over 3 years old: This old bird has worn his feather tips because of strutting which is done by dragging his feathers on the ground. As the turkeys molt and loose feathers the white areas get larger and wider with age.

A young turkey's tail is somewhat irregular in appearance because of the late replacement of four to six of the central feathers. This appearance will remain with the young bird until the second autumn. From the second autumn onward the turkeys tail will be smooth, rounded and even in appearance.

The wild turkey grows a hair-like beard that continues to grow throughout its life time. The beard grows from a featherless oval of skin called a "papilla"

A young "Jake" has a beard that protrudes from his breast feathers at about 6 months of age and often has a tan color to the further most tips.

The beard grows about 4-5 inches a year so a 2 year old bird may have a beard 8-10 inches long and the tips will have become lighter. There is a documented beard in Alabama of 16.9 inches!!

Three year old birds have the longest beards, but they have now started to wear them down by dragging them on the ground while feeding. The beard will be absent of the lighter color on the tips because of this wear.

When turkeys have more than one "papilla" on there breast they can grow multiple beards, there was a reported case of 8 separate beards from an old gobbler from WI !!!

Feet and Spurs
A young juvenile less than 1 year old will have a spur about 1/2 inch or less. This young turkey's feet will have darker scales because of a pigment called "melanin". As the scales grow they become clearer and the turkey's foot takes on a pink or reddish color by the time they are 1 1/2 years old.

A 2 year old wild turkey will have a spur from 1/2 to 1 inch in length with a somewhat rounded point.

A 3 year old wild turkey usually always has a spur at least 1 inch in length with a sharp point.

The old gobbler will sport the longest spurs with the maximum being about 2 inches and also will have a sharp point.

Now the next time you are fortunate enough to harvest a fine trophy you will be able to age your gobbler.

Larry Reese, Wildlife Artistry Taxidermy



    Life Member

  • Authors
  • 5,702 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 13 May 2006 - 10:19 AM

Norm telling the age of a tom has been a subject for discussion for a long time. As a general rule of thumb a young tom, or jake, has a very short stubby beard only about 2 - 5 inches. The central tail feathers are longer than the rest. The spurs are usually little stubs. They usuaylly weigh 17 lbs or less. They may strut and even gobble though.

A two year old tom is a mature bird. Their beard can be anywhere up to a foot long. The tail feathers are the same length. The spurs usually are less than an inch long and the general weight will be 18 - 25 lbs.

A three year or older bird will appear much the same as a two year old except the spurs may be longer and it may be heavier. A three year old normally will weigh from 20 to 28 lbs.

These are generalizations but are true more often than not. I am describing the Eastern turkey. Other species may be slightly different as to beard length, spur length and body size.

The largest bird may or may not be the dominant bird. Case in point we saw one this morning that came in almost silent and had a bigger beard than the one that constantly gobbled.

After saying all that there is no way to accurately age a bird once it is 2 yrs old. Just generalizations.
If God had a refrigerator would your picture be on it.
Remember the Ark was built by amateurs, the titanic by professionals.

#4 Spirithawk


    Never Logs Off

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,343 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 14 May 2006 - 10:44 AM

I was thinking of the two my son and I got opening day. His apeared to be the older bird. It was noticeably darker colored, had longer spurs, weighed 20lbs and a 10 1/2" beard. Mine was lighter in color, had 1" spurs, weighed 15lbs and had a 12 " beard. I was surprised mine had the longer beard. The beard on mine is 4 times as thick as Jason's Tom too. Because of the weight differance I'd still say Jason's was the older of the two.

#5 Leo


    Hunting Resource

  • Administrators
  • 3,155 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:South Carolina

Posted 14 May 2006 - 11:13 AM

Best indicator on Gobblers is Spur length.

Weights vary greatly from locale to locale. And bird to bird. I've killed two yr olds that have ranged 15-21lbs. Weight is primarily affected by diet. Spur length is affected by diet and genetics.

Around here I have never seen a two yr old that had spurs under 3/4"
Three yr olds consistantly have 1" to 1 1/16" Once the bird gets spurs over 1 1/4" here it could be one old gobbler.

Where I used hunt in Alabama Gobblers that were 2yrs old consistantly weighed at least 20lbs. I've killed birds in South Carolina that were definately at least 3yrs old (spurs > 1 1/16") and none broke the 20lb mark.

Osceola's are probably the least hefty turkeys. Lot's of 15lb two yr olds. But someone seems to get one with 1 1/2" spurs every year. I'd like to try that one day :)

Most likely the turkeys I hunt are Eastern/Osceola hybrids. NWTF only recognizes them as Easterns. There have always been these birds here. The reintroduction of turkeys into this area was never necessary.
Posted Image

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users