10 Facts About Turkeys That All Hunters Should Know

by Atlanta Northcutt

Did you know that the amount of wild turkeys is so high in America that they’ve actually become a problem in the suburbs and even cities?

This is a massive change from the early 1900s. At that time, only about 30,000 turkeys were residing in the US as they were receiving protection from extinction. Today, there are approximately 7 million wild turkeys roaming in the U.S. This is a good thing for hunters who want to hunt the scrumptious bird.

10 Tips for Turkey Hunters

  • 1) If you are tracking these birds, be sure to look for feathers. An adult turkey may have as many as 5,000 to 6,000 feathers. A turkey will drop feathers when molting, and if you find the feathers, it may help you pattern the birds, particularly when hunting in the fall.
  • 2) Look for long spurs just above a turkey’s feet. The length of a gobbler’s spurs is a good indication of the age of the bird. Spurs can grow up to two inches long on mature birds.
  • 3) Toms (adult male turkey) have have prolific beards hanging from their chest that are composed of tufts of filaments. These beards can reach over 10 inches. A fully-grown gobbler has a beard that is around 9 inches long, and some birds have multiple beards. It’s also estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of hens are bearded.
  • 4) Turkey have great vision during the daytime. Use decoys to your advantage to distract them and draw them in from a distance. And be as still as possible to avoid detection when turkey hunting.
  • 5) Be ready to aim and fire quickly. Turkey are surprisingly fast, and they are masters at the art of escape. They can run on the ground up to 25 mph. However, if they take off to the sky, they can fly around 55 mph.
  • 6) After breeding, hens will usually lay between 10 to 12 eggs over a 10-day to two-week period. A new flock of baby turkeys have to leave their nest within 12 to 24 hours in order to gather their own food. If you want to maximize the number of birds you have to hunt, focus on hunting predators that destroy the turkey nests and eat the eggs, including raccoons, opossums, and coyotes.
  • 7) Get a head start on your turkey hunt by “roosting” the birds at night after dusk. Use an owl call to locate gobblers on the roost and you’ll have a good idea where the birds will fly down the next morning. If you can only hunt in the afternoon, knowing where the birds roost will give you a good idea where they may return to in the late afternoon.
  • 8) There are five wild turkey subspecies in North America. The Eastern part of the continent has the most turkeys with numbers estimated to be over 5 million. If you want to impress your turkey-hunting friends, go for the “Grand Slam” of harvesting four U.S. subspecies (Eastern, Osceola or Florida, Rio Grande and Merriam’s), or go for all five with the “Royal Slam” (The Grand Slam plus the Gould’s, which is found in Mexico and limited areas of the Southwest).
  • 9) What are the best places and times to hunt turkey? First off, if you live in Alabama, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, or South Carolina then you’ll be hunting your state’s No. 1 game bird. Turkey roost in large trees, but frequently strut in open areas. They may visit food plots, just like deer. Best times to hunt are in the morning, when gobblers are the most vocal and easier to locate, and in the afternoon. Turkey patterns may also be affected by rain or thunderstorms.
  • 10) A gobbler strutting is a magnificent sight. Each feather has an attachment to a muscle on the bird in order for them to display their tail feathers in a fan. You can tell a mature tom from a younger jake by the length of their tail feathers. A mature bird will have a fully rounded fan, where a jake’s fan is jagged, with the middle tail feathers slightly longer than the outer feathers.

As overpopulation of wild turkeys increases, it’s actually beneficial to the species to hunt them and reduce some of the numbers. Hopefully some of these tips will help you in your hunts.

And now, enjoy this U.K. Family Feud “Turkey episode”.