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What's the Deal With Beard Length?

It seems like everyone describes certain gobblers as "big, old turkeys with beards dragging on the ground." Does beard length really indicate age? — Tommy Ceelow, Atlanta, Ga.

Here's the easiest answer: No. Now, the explanation. Field-judging the age of a gobbler by using beard length is almost impossible. unless the turkey is a jake and has a typical 3- to 4-inch jake beard. The beards of male turkeys grow about 4 to 5 inches per year, so a 2-year-old gobbler will have a typical beard of about 9 inches. However, 3- , 4- and 5-year-old turkeys don't have 13- to 18-inch beards. Why? As you mentioned, those beards drag on the ground and get stepped on, and the filaments at the end break off, leaving older turkeys with average beards of 9 to 10 inches. Of course, some are slightly longer or shorter. The only true measure of a turkey's age is its spur length.

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