I killed my first Turkey 4 years ago. He was a good sized bird with a 5" beard. I ran into an old time Turkey hunter that told me he was likely a 4-5 year old bird . What an awesome first year of Turkey hunting that was. The following year my wife n I simultaneously shot Jakes. I counted to three and we fired at the same time. Just couldn't pass up the opportunity to double up as my wife killed her first Turkey. Anyway when I saw the beard on this year's turkey I at first thought this would be my biggest Tom to date. Packing him out this time it really felt as though he was much easier to carry and significantly lighter than that first Tom. Then when I got home and compared tails I was a little surprised at how much bigger the tail is from that first bird with the much smaller beard n spurs. Each tail feather is a good 1/2-3/4" bigger. I'm thinking this year's bird may just be a younger bird with better genetics?? Perhaps that first bird had rubbed his beard off? His spurs were all rounded off and worn looking and his wingtips were in super rough shape from strutting and fighting I assume. This bird was also covered with all kinds of small legged worm like bugs and fleas or something. As I plucked his feathers they would run around and hide in the skin where I'd just pulled the feathers from. I don't recall seeing anything like this on any of the birds I've killed or helped dress out before. Any thoughts from any of you old pro's?
I believe those are lice you're seeing. As for the bird, beards and spurs can certainly be affected by terrain, snow, etc. An old bird could have worn these down with time. I've mainly seen this with Merriam's in rugged, mountainous terrain. The only biologist confirmed 4 year old bird I've killed had a huge fain, 11.5 inch beard and 1 7/8 spurs but that was an Eastern.
Lots of stuff flies around the turkey hunting world about spur length and aging. I know for a fact of a 5 year old bird, with no rocks in the area he lived to wear down his spurs, good nutrition, with spurs just under 1 inch. I heard a report of a banded bird this year that was 6 years old, and just over 1" spurs. Those are not necessarily the norm, it appears, but most of the time age is under-estimated I believe.
If an eastern had 1-7/8" spurs, he had to be way more than 4 years old, IMO. Probably more like double that....
I have seen broken spurs, but I don't personally believe that they get worn down by rocks. Spurs grow and get sharper with age.
I shot a bird last year with sharp pointed spurs that measured 1 3/8" and this year's bird was only 7/8" long but diameter of the spur was about 30% bigger than last years bird. This year's bird weighed about 2lbs more than last years bird and the fan of this year's bird is also bigger than last years bird, but beard was a little shorter, but was ragged, could see lots of broken fibers.
If I go by spurs, last year's bird was older, if I go by everything else, this year's bird is older.
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