By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
If you have ever been part of a hunting club, you have probably been faced with many guidelines and restrictions for the benefit of the deer herd. Many clubs enforce rules that correlate to Quality Deer Management, but don’t forget about turkeys! Quality Turkey Management is a set of guidelines for any responsible hunter to prolong the local turkey population and keep them all healthy! Quality Turkey Management, or QTM, is pretty straight forward and many people practice it unconsciously.
I think it’s safe to say that many turkey hunters strive to harvest the wiser, mature gobbler; the one that doesn’t say too much but their presence is known! With that being said, it’s not hard to pick out the jakes, A.K.A the confidence boosters. They respond to every. single. call and have a shorter, thinner beard as well as smaller spurs Jakes also travel in bachelor groups comprised of 2-5 jakes. It is important to distinguish jakes from gobblers and pass these up however because a high mortality rate in jakes will result in a huge drop in the local turkey population. According to Deer and Turkey Management Beyond Food Plots, Jakes that survive their first spring have a much higher probability of reaching mature gobbler status. Two year old gobblers are the most widely harvested age group because they are at least 20 pounds and have longer spurs and longer beards. To the untrained eye, a two year old gobbler is a trophy bird and has reached its potential. While two years old is mature, it is not full potential! Aging birds on the ground is just one of those things that come with time; the more you see, the better you get at it! One difference between QDM and QTM is the fact that hens are not of any concern. That is because a skewed ratio does not affect the population or the habitat nearly as much as it does in deer. However, it is important to manage your land properly for turkey or they will relocate to somewhere with adequate cover, space, and food.
The moral of the story is this: pass up on the Jakes for the sake of the future turkey population. Think of it as passing up a spike if you were deer hunting…it may not be against hunting club guidelines, but it will one day impact the herd as a whole. So don’t let your self-esteem get the best of you! Be patient and wait for “Old Tom”.
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