by Austin Delano
One of the most prized possessions of many turkey hunters is their collection of beards and spurs from hunting adventures. Most turkey hunters can quickly recall where their biggest or best bird was killed and all the details that made the hunt. Spur length, weight, and beard length are all topics for bragging rights on these “kings of the spring.” One of the rarest characteristics that only a handful of hunters are lucky enough to collect is a multiple bearded gobbler. Although unusual and highly prized as a trophy by hunters, to a turkey, the beard is just another feather. Since they continuously grow and wear down, beards are not a very reliable indicator of age, and from a breeding or dominance standpoint, carry no weight in the department of attracting hens.
The longest beard on record was over 22 inches long! Gobblers and hens both have an area on the chest called papilla where the beard grows from. Gobblers with more than one papilla can grow multiple beards. Occasionally a hen will produce a beard, another fairly rare occurrence. Population dynamics, genetics, difference in species, area of occurrence have all been looked at for insight as to why gobblers grow multiple beards, but there seems to be no correlation. If you are blessed enough to kill a strutting boss one day that sports more than one beard, be sure and take good pictures, it may not happen again. Although we don’t know why some turkeys grow multiple beards or why a hen sometimes sports one, beards are just another cool trait from one of God’s most amazing birds. What’s the best beard you have seen on a gobbler?
This tip is courtesy of the GameKeepers Field Notes, a weekly wildlife and land management email newsletter produced by the Mossy Oak GameKeepers.
A GameKeeper by definition is someone who truly loves AND lives the land, the critters and nature…not just during hunting season but all the time. A GameKeeper wants to be outdoors every day and work the dirt while living their personal “obsession”.
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