Wild Turkey
Hunting Info
Turkey Calls
Turkey Store
  Wild Turkey Zone  
Articles by --
Rob Ramsdale
Ramsdale's Articles
Articles by --
T R Michels

Michels' Articles

Articles by --
Guest Authors

More Articles

Wild Turkey Hunting Articles --
Beard Length

Beard Characteristics -- How to Age Your Gobbler

-- by Rob Ramsdale --

Beards are another variable that may be used in determining the age of a gobbler. Generally, beards grow at a rate of 4" to 5" a year and never stop growing. They also will usually get wider and thicker as the gobbler ages. Knowing this, you can be fairly certain a gobbler with a beard of less than 5" is a one year old bird.There are still exceptions to this though since mature gobblers can lose most or all of the beard to various causes.

The beard length is only partially helpful in determining the age of a gobbler because after a bird reaches the age of 2 when the beard reaches a length of 9" to 10" and it starts to wear down at the tip. When the bird feeds, the beards tip is worn by both getting stepped on by the tom and by dragging on the ground.

There are also many other variable which can affect the length of a beard including:

  1. Growth Rate -- Some birds simply grow beards fast enough to overcome the wear factor.
  2. Habitat -- Some geographical areas have ground which is "softer" and does not wear the beard tips as much. Swampy area birds (Osceola) generally have longer beards and spurs than rocky area birds (Merriam's).
  3. Leg Length -- If the legs are longer (like on an Osceola) the beard will grow longer before it starts to wear at the end.
  4. Filament Strength -- Beards with stronger individual filaments will not wear as quickly.
  5. Thickness: -- If a beard is really thick with lots of filaments and a large circumference, it will not wear as fast as a thin, wispy beard.
  6. Diet -- Certain foods may make a beard tougher and more wear resistant.
  7. Climate -- Northern birds or birds in areas with high snowfalls will often lose the tips of their beards when ice builds up on them and they break off.
  8. Disease -- Turkeys will occasionally get a melanin deficiency in their beard. Melanin is the pigment that makes the beard black and sometimes the melanin production is stopped during the growth of the beard and the beard gets a blonde or light colored streak across it. Usually the melanin production will pick back up and the rest of the beard will be black but the beard will always have that blonde streak through it. The light-colored portion of the beard is much more brittle and weaker than the black portions and the beards will often break off at that point or stop growing. Some turkeys suffering from this will have completely blonde beards.

The best research I have seen relating beard characteristics to the age of a wild turkey gobbler can be found in Lovett Williams books "The Book of the Wild Turkey" (1981) and "After the Hunt " (1996).

In these books he talks about examining the tips of the beards to aid in determining the age of a gobbler. The end of a young gobbler's beard will appear translucent amber when held up to a light and it will have smooth, rounded tips on the filaments. As the beard continues growing, the amber tip will eventually wear off and the ends of the filaments will become jagged. Thus a gobbler with a 10" beard that still has its amber tips would be a 2 year old gobbler since the beard hasn't grown enough yet to completely wear off the amber tips.

Beard Length
Tip Color
0" to 4"
Younger than 1 year
4" to 5"
1 year
8" to 10"
2 years
10" plus
3 years or older

Source: "The Book of the Wild Turkey - Williams" (1981)

Next Page >>



Turkey and Turkey Hunting Turkey and Turkey Hunting --- Only $14.95

Turkey & Turkey Hunting Magazine focuses on turkey hunting techniques, turkey behavior and biology, the latest wild turkey research for hunters, equipment, destinations, and hunting ethics.


Take time to visit - www.engineershandbook.com

Copyright © 1998 - 2006 The Wild Turkey Zone - Robert Ramsdale - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy