Top 5 Longest Wild Turkey Subspecies Beards

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Wild Turkey Beard Length Records for Each Subspecies

One of the first physical details you size up when a gobbler walks into view is the beard.

Beards are often a matter of shooting a legal bird in the spring, as "bearded bird" state regulations also include bearded hens; other states are "gobblers only" and one, no jakes.

Mississippi, for instance, requires a 6-inch beard on a gobbler. (On average, gobbler beards grow 5 inches in a year, with many variations for late hatches, early hatches and so on.)

Top 5 Wild Turkey Subspecies Beards © Russell Graves

So you ask yourself . . .

Is the beard long or short? This detail can tell you if it's an adult gobbler or young one; well most of the time, but not always. 

Then again, some beards break off, and the turkey might still be a long-spurred adult, and full-fanned. 

Other times, a bull jake might have fair spurs (say 7/8s of an inch), but the expected irregular tail fan.

And there are many other oddities as beards go . . . including multiple examples.

Click through this blog to check out the registered record single-beard lengths with the National Wild Turkey Federation for the Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Gould's and Merriam's wild turkey subspecies.






Eastern, 22.5 Inches

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1 | Eastern, 22.5 Inches

Location: Bowie, Texas

Yes, Texas is known for Rio Grande gobblers, but Eastern wild turkeys live there too.

I kid you not about the length you just saw posted here.

How this record-book bird managed to drag that long beard around without it breaking off (or wearing it thin) is anyone's guess.

Cody May killed this Texas Eastern wild turkey gobbler on April 6, 2007.

Yep, its rope measured 22.5 inches long.

Heck, that's a big bass most anywhere. A box and slate call pulled the gobbler in. 

Go here for more on turkey hunting in Texas.

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Osceola, 19.125 Inches

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2 | Osceola, 19.125 Inches

Location: Lafayette, Florida

Hunter Robin Shiver killed this Osceola using several turkey calls as well.

A slate and mouth diaphragm lured the bird into range and the record books.

The gobbler was killed on March 22, 2008. Its rope measured 19.125 inches long.

Go here for more on turkey hunting in Florida.

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Rio Grande, 15.375 Inches

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3 | Rio Grande, 15.375 Inches

Location: Beckham, Oklahoma

Yep, Oklahoma is surely Rio Grande country.

And Joe Mullican killed this one with the 15.375-inch record beard length for this subspecies on April 7, 2001.

A mouth diaphragm fooled it into range.

Go here for more on turkey hunting in Oklahoma.

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4 | Gould's, 14.0625 Inches

Location: Canatlán, Durango, Mexico

Clyde Neely, a Texas resident, travelled south of the border and took this record-book Gould's on April 10, 2006, using a box and slate call.

14.0625 inches is a long turkey beard anywhere.

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5 | Merriam's, 13.875 Inches

Location: Brown, Nebraska

Another mouth diaphragm did this one in, too.

On April 20, 2002, hunter Gerald Allen, a non-resident hunter from Iowa, pulled the trigger on this Merriam's with the 13.875-inch beard.

Go here for more on turkey hunting in Nebraska.

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(Stick-number photos © Bill Konway)

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