|Spurs on Mature Tom Turkey|
Both male and female turkeys posses attractive iridescent plumage but only the males have heads accentuated by red, white and blue colorations. This color pattern is critical for excited hunters to identify during Maine’s spring turkey season to ensure, as in accordance with the law, only male turkeys are harvested. Both toms and hens can grow beards or coarse hair-like feathers that protrude from the chest area. In females, this odd growth rarely exceeds an inch or two and often signifies a mature hen or capable breeder. Hunters are cautioned to use care not to misidentify and shoot these birds. On toms, beards can be quite impressive on mature birds, easily growing to a length of 12 or more inches.
When scouting areas for trophy level toms, hunters look for tracks exceeding 6 inches (length of a dollar bill) as this is usually a good indicator that a mature, trophy sized bird is frequenting the area. Wild turkey breeding season occurs during April and May. Dominant males “puff-up” their bodies, spread out their tail feather into a fan shape, then strut and gobble in an attempt to attract females. Smaller male “toms” and immature “jakes” who attempt to challenge the authority of these dominant males quickly find themselves embroiled in fierce battles for ultimate supremacy over these harems of females. Mature toms grow, on their lower legs, long sharp spurs that it effectively uses to fight off challengers. Once hens are successfully bred, hens construct nests in dense cover to protect eggs from predators.
Poults (newly hatched turkeys) usually hatch after about a month of incubating and tend to leave the nest the day they hatch. Polts grow rapidly on a diverse diet of insects, plants, berries and seeds and within 5-6 weeks become fully capable of fending for themselves. Wild Turkeys have keen eyesight, acute hearing and are agile fliers, making them a challenging and exciting big game animal to pursue. If you have not yet tried turkey hunting I strongly suggest giving it a try and learning more about this impressive avian.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is North American’s largest upland game bird?
2. How much does a mature tom turkey weigh?
3. How much does a mature hen turkey weigh?
4. What are the three primary colors on the head of a tom turkey that easily distinguish it from a hen?
5. How can hunters determine the size of a tom turkey based solely on its’ foot print?
6. How long after hatching do turkey eggs hatch?
7. What do polts or newly hatched turkeys eat?
8. How long after hatching can polts fend for themselves?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. North American’s largest upland game bird is the Eastern Wild Turkey
2. A mature tom turkey can weigh in excess of 25 pounds.
3. A mature hen turkey typically weighs about 12 pounds.
4. The three primary colors on the head of a tom turkey that easily distinguish it from a hen are red, white and blue.
5. Hunters can determine the size of a tom turkey based solely on its’ foot print by measuring it with a dollar bill. Tracks equaling or exceeding the length belong to an impressive tom.
6. Turkey eggs hatch after approximately one month of incubation.
7. Polts or newly hatched turkeys eat insects, plants, berries and seeds.
8. Polts can fend for themselves after 5-6 weeks.