When You Should Shoot a Jake

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Young gobblers are perfect for youth hunters, new hunters, and . . .

Young gobblers can be fun to hunt, too. (c) Russell Graves photo

The Kentucky hunt had been great. I'd killed a beautiful longbeard early on, watched buddies take others, and had one tag left.

We were a half-hour late for heading to the airport, but gobblers were fired up and coming.

What would you do?

I thought so. I stayed, too.

We were a half-hour late for heading to the airport, but gobblers were fired up and coming.

Far off, black bodies, red heads, were running hard. In they came, and I shot the first one there. The winner, tongue-in-cheek, was a nice, fat jake. Beard? Barely five inches, max.

It's one of my favorite Bluegrass State hunts over the many years since then; almost 20 as I write this.

But even this older guy loves young gobblers now, especially during fall turkey hunts when I specifically target them.

Reasons for taking a jake follow. There are also times you shouldn't.

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You're a Young Hunter

You’re an inexperienced hunter, young or old, and a shortbeard is perfectly legal where you hunt. Or, better yet, you're guiding a young hunter to their first turkey. 

You're a veteran hunter, but . . .

You’re an experienced hunter and the young male turkey stepping into range first acted older, gobbling hard and providing one heckuva hunt.

It's Fall, and You Want Gobblers

You’re hunting fall turkeys and would rather kill a male bird than a legal either-sex hen.

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Let's Be Honest

Nowadays the word "jake" can unfortunately be a term of derision. That's a shame. It's true even if the shortbeard gave you a good hunt, gobbled hard, then later provided a memorable meal for the camp crew.

Some hunters think killing a longbeard is a measure of ego boosting, when in fact that two-year-old kamikaze tom may have run in and strutted to barely marginal hen yelping from a diaphragm call.

Because he was crazy to breed what he thought was a hen, the tom got shot.

Me? I think they're all good. Jakes. Toms. Legal fall hens.

When You Shouldn't

Shooting a jake is not legal in Mississippi, for instance, as the state has a 6-inch beard rule, and most juvenile gobblers have beards 5 inches or less.

Be sure to check your state's regulations, too.

And hey, maybe you don't want to, even if they're legal. That's cool, too.

Ever shoot a young gobbler? Never take one? It's all good.

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