Use this insider’s information on wild turkey beards to start a spring gobbler camp conversation and even win a friendly bet.
1) LONGEST REGISTERED BEARD
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s current registry (as of this writing), the record longbeard taped out to 22.5000 inches. (No typo!)
Cody May shot the gobbler, officially registered as an Eastern not a Rio Grande (the typical Lone Star State subspecies) on April 6, 2007 in Bowie, Texas.
2) BEARDED LADIES OF THE SPRING
The beard is sometimes thought to be only a male turkey characteristic, but some hens also have beards, often 7 or 8 inches long, and thin, with a kink near the middle. Bearded hens also breed, lay eggs and raise broods. As far as we know, bearded hens are just as sexy to spring gobblers as those without.
3) WHY BEARDS DON’T ALWAYS AGE GOBBLERS
Hunters typically check the beard, spurs and even weight of a gobbler after killing one, but what is the most reliable indicator of a turkey’s age?
Spur length and sharpness will reveal a gobbler’s age most reliably.
Weight can’t be an accurate indicator of age. Jakes sometimes weigh 18 pounds while adult gobblers occasionally go less.
A beard may wear down, break during breeding or fighting, or even be pulled out when escaping predators. Some beardless gobblers survive hunter encounters, as visible beards are often a legal requirement in turkey hunting states.
If you think about it though, rare beardless gobblers do age these lucky survivors.
Photo by NWTF media