Turkey Anatomy

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Beard

A band of stiff, stringy, black filaments grow on a gobbler’s chest. This beard or “rope” protrudes through the body feathers and is visible when a tom is around 6 months old. In the spring of his first year, a jake wears a 3- to 6-inch beard. A beard grows 3 to 5 inches a year. A 2- or 3-year-old tom typically carries a rope that measures 9 to 11 inches. A beard may be thick or skinny, depending on the number of stringy filaments.

Some gobblers have 2 or 3 separate beards that grow close together. Hunters prize these multiple ropes. The odd hen wears a thin beard.

Spurs

All wild turkeys are born with small buttons on their lower legs. While hens keep buttons, spurs or “hooks” grow throughout a tom’s life. A jake has round spurs less than ½-inch long. A 2-year-old tom typically has thick spurs that measure 7/8 of an inch to one inch. A gobbler that lives 3 years or longer grows curved, sharp hooks that may tape 1 7/8 inches (2-inch hooks are as good as it gets). Due to weird genetics, the odd tom has no spurs or 2 spurs on one leg.

Eastern and Osceola gobblers typically have the longest, sharpest spurs. Western turkeys have shorter, thicker spurs.

 


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