Aging a gobbler can be a little difficult. Over the years, biologists have researched different techniques for aging turkeys in the field. After all the research, it can get tough to age a gobbler after he is three years old. It is easy to identify a first-year (Jake) bird, but after that, it can become a little more difficult.

Tail Feather Patterns: A Key for Distinguishing Jakes

There are multiple ways to get a good idea of the age of a gobbler. Tail feathers on a gobbler are really only useful in identifying jakes from mature gobblers. When a Jake is strutting you will notice the middle 2 to 6 primary tail feathers will be 2 to 4 inches longer than the rest of the tail feathers. Jakes have these longer tail feathers because of the late summer molt that they go through. They only replace the middle tail feathers. Once a Jake hits the age of 2 he will have a more even fan for the rest of his life.

Beard Length: An Unreliable Indicator of Turkey Age

Beards are not a good indicator of a turkey's age for multiple reasons. A turkey's beard can grow 4 to 5 inches in a year. A 2-year-old Tom is most likely to have an 8-to-10-inch beard, but after that, the gobbler's beard has a great chance of wearing down at the end. There are multiple reasons a gobbler's beard could wear down. Terrain type is a big factor in the wear of a beard. Osceola gobblers tend to have longer beards due to the ground being softer, and more swampy areas they travel do not wear their beards down as much. The Eastern and Merriam tend to have shorter beards due to the rocky terrain they live in wears their beards down more drastically. Climate can play a role in beard length as well. Northern birds that tend to deal with more snowfall will often have the tips of their beards freeze and have ice buildup on them and break off.


Author: Jerry Lannen

Jerry Lannen

Jerry was born and raised in central Pennsylvania. He has a passion for hunting and the outdoors. Which has landed him position on tv shows. He loves chasing turkeys and calling coyotes.


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May 11, 2024 — Jerry Lannen
Tags: hunting tips

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