Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Determine a Turkey's Age by its Spurs

© 2011 Albert A Rasch and
 The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Turkey Hunting Tips
Estimating a Turkey's Age

As hunters, we try to develop skills that help us harvest game ethically and efficiently. When you are hunting turkeys for instance, being able to estimate the age of the bird you are harvesting is a pretty good skill to have. Even after the fact, wouldn't it be nice to know how old your turkey is?

It is realtively easy to estimate a turkeys age by measuring the length of the spurs. This can even be done on the fly, so to speak, by the sharp-eyed hunters out there reading The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.

Spur length is considered to be the most reliable characteristic you can use to determine the age of a wild turkey. Though spurs show wear differences due to its behaviors, and sub-species have maximum lengths, in general they keep getting longer and sharper as the turkey ages.

Before we can effectively age your turkey, it is important to know how to measure the spur.

Picture Credit: NWTF
To measure a spur, run your tape along the outside center of the curve, from the point at which the spur protrudes from the scaled leg skin to the tip of the spur.  Use a thin steel tape if you have one, or make a mark on a strip of paper to start your measurement from. The length of a spur is determined by the measrement taken from the leg scale to the tip of the spur.

It's easy to measure while your tukey is in hand, but trying to do it while a turkey is out in the field, good luck on that! If you are a sharp-eyed hunter, you may be able to distinguish the length of the spur when the old gobbler turns in profile. But you'll have to have some series eagle eye visio to pull that one off!

Now that you know what to look for, let's see what we have. Generally, the longer the spurs, the older the Tom. Obviously Jakes, the one year old Toms, will have the shortest spurs. They can be as long as 7/16th of an inch, but will usually be much shorter. In the spring they will be little more than small bumps, only becomeing defined spurs the following spring.

As Tom gets into his second year, his spurs will grow proportionately. He will have spurs from 1/2  an inch all the way up to just shy of an inch. They will be relatively straight and the tips will be blunt. He hasn't had time to whet his spurs yet, and anyway he hasn't the weight to push around yet.
As Ol' Tom gets on in his years and hits 3, his spurs will get well past an inch. The older a turkey gets,  the longer and sharper his spurs will become, and they will also develop some curve to them.

Merriam's Image Credit: Alice Outwater
In many cases, the turkeys home range determines just how long it spurs will get. Down here in sunny Florida, Osceola's usually have the longest spurs of the five American sub-species. Due mostly to their environment, as they usually live in areas with sandy soil and soft dirt or in soggy swampy areas. As you might imagine, they do not wear off their spurs. On the other hand, the western subspecies, like the Merriam's, often live in hard,very rocky, or mountainous areas which means that in many cases, even the older birds will have worn their spurs to less than 1 inch long!

Turkey Hunting Guide and Outfitter:
J Scott Croner
Nebraska Hunting Company
Nebraska Hunting Company's Merriam's Turkey Hunting
Mobile: 402.304.1192
Email: scott@nebraskahunting.net

Related Posts:
Quaker Boy Typhoon Turkey Call
Hunting Merriam's Turkey
Wild Turkey Hunting

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, Albert A Rasch, Hunting in Florida

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

1 comment:

Nebraska Hunting Company said...


Good tips and certainly true! The Merriam's have some pretty stubby spurs.

All the best!
Scott Croner, Merriam's Turkey Hunting