Turkey Hunting: How to Age a Gobbler by Spur Length

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

For the Love of Turkey Spurs

Aging gobblers by spur length isn't an exact science. Often it's an estimate. 

The sharpness and curve of the spur can give you an approximate read on the bird's age though.

Rarely will gobblers have no spurs, and some subspecies show different characteristics based on the terrain they walk.

Spurs grow longer with each passing year. Color variations are many, from pearl to black.

Some atypical gobblers even have double-spurs. 

A spur might be longer on one leg. They might match. One might be missing. It's all good for us turkey hunters who love to study the greatest game bird on the planet.

Let's take a look at some spurs in this photo blog, and talk a bit about aging gobblers.

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Young Gobbler

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1 | Young Gobbler

A juvenile male turkey, often called a "jake," tends to have a spur less than a half-inch long.

An early-hatch young spring gobbler might have one like the spur pictured here. This turkey had a thundering man-sized gobble, came to the calls on a great hunt, and I shot him; no apologies. The fried nuggets back at camp were delicious.

A late-hatch jake might just have a small rounded spur that's still developing, barely a quarter-inch.

Full disclosure: I've killed a few full-fan, longbearded Merriam's with half-inch spurs this blunt.

Bonus Read: When You Should Shoot a Jake

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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2 | Two-Year-Old

The 2-year-old gobbler was a jake last year, and is ready to rumble this spring.

Many birds this age are taken each season. They often work well to the calls, may or may not be the boss tom in a flock, and can also be one of those satellite gobblers that breaks off and comes slipping in to your soft yelps.

Spurs are straight, blunt, an inch long or so, without the slight curve a 3-year-old's might have.

This one might cause a little debate in turkey camp, as there's just a little bend starting in the spur. You might also see this kind of spur on a gobbler you kill while fall turkey hunting.

Timing, as turkey season goes, is everything with spur measurements.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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3 | Three-Year-Old

These spurs were worn by an Osceola longbeard Hunter Sullivan shot last year in our Florida turkey camp.

We'd hunted this hard-gobbling turkey in the morning, coming close on a couple of occasions. Sullivan pulled the trigger on it later that afternoon, after resting the spot for several hours, and returning to call the longbeard right in.

Three-year-old gobblers have a slightly curved, pointed look like these. That's one fine bird.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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Old Gobblers

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4 | Old Gobblers

Gobblers over 3-years-old have sharp, curved daggers like this one.

My longtime hunting bud Mike Jordan killed it in Oklahoma. A bunch of jakes mobbed the decoy, eyeing it up and down. Jordan waited, watched, and soon this old turkey came running in, lagging behind the rest of the juveniles.

He was an old warrior, this bird. The crow-black color of these spurs is really cool, too.

(Steve Hickoff photo)

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