Just as in deer hunting, there is a way to easily distinguish older male turkeys (toms) from younger males (jakes) and hens. Some would say its pretty simple the one gobbling is the bird you want to harvest, or the one with the beard. But again just like deer hunting flock management is crucial to a well balanced ecosystem. With the spring wild turkey season getting ready to kick off we have put together some tips for turkey hunting to identify the differences.
Differences between younger jakes versus older toms.
Male turkey have whats referred to as a spur on the backside of each leg which could be anything from a small bump to well over an inch in length. The spurs are used by the males as a defensive/offensive tool when settling a score against other dominant males.
Another good way to look at relative age between younger jakes versus toms, is that younger jakes will have longer tail feathers in the middle of their tail spread. Older turkey will have a more uniform length across all tail feathers in their spread.
Distinguishing male turkey from females
So lets set aside the fact that males gobble and hens cluck and purr. Lets look visually at turkey. Male turkey, just like in other species, are visually more vibrant and colorful than females. For instance, the heads of males are typically bright white, blueish or even red. Females are typically more drab and light blueish but they also have feathers that cover the majority of their neck and the crown of their head. Males have no feathers for the majority of their neck.
Another way to tell them apart is their feathers overall - males have a translucent quality to their feathers giving them a metallic sheen to them in the sun. In addition males have dark brown to black tips on their breast feathers where females have more of a tanish color to them.
Lastly males are the only ones to have beards (unlike humans in Louisa county) which are actually a type of feather but drop down from the chest area and have the consistency of horse hair. The caveat to this is that at times some females may display a beard as well and that is where it is important to look at the other characteristics of the turkey.
For a visual reference click here for the VA DGIF illustrations http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlif...gingturkey.pdf