(WKRG) — The experience of turkey hunting is best described as an early morning outing wrapped in layers of sight, sounds, excitement and maybe some nervous tension. The entire hunt can come down to a judgment call that has to be made in as little as 5 seconds. That is the moment when the hunter finally gets to see the bird that he has been conversing with since daylight. In that crucial 5 seconds, the hunter has to work through a checklist of criteria before making a shot at harvesting a mature gobbling turkey.
It is impossible to properly identify and assess and approaching gobbler until the entire bird is seen. Now come the hard part. Is it a Jake or a gobbler? Jake is a term used to identify a juvenile male bird while a gobbler is a male turkey that has reached the mature stage of development. Both birds may demonstrate both the red, white and blue coloration in the head and neck area when they enter an aggressive or excited state. Judging a turkey by head color alone is where many hunters make the mistake of taking the wrong bird.
A mature gobbler will usually sport a beard that will range between 6 to 10 inches in length. Since it’s virtually impossible to judge a turkey by it’s spurs at any distance, the beard is the first indicator whether you are dealing with a mature bird. If the beard is long and thick, it is the first visual sign that your bird is at least a mature, gobbling turkey.
Younger jakes will have a two inch beard and the center feathers of it’s fan will obviously be longer than the side feathers. A super jake will have what appears at first sight to be a full fan. Upon closer observation the hunter will see that the fan is not completely round and full. When presented the fan still has the characteristic shorter feathers or jake notch on the outer fan feathers.
Avid turkey hunters have found that by properly managing the next generation of jakes, they are helping to ensure a growing population of turkeys and plenty of gobbling action for future Spring mornings.
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