"Just" A Jake

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

was afoot.

I contacted the county conservation agent that afternoon, and he said he would look for the hunter's name on the weekend check sheet. The following week I learned that the hunter had not checked the bird and had received a citation for poaching.

I wondered why the young man deemed the jake unworthy of tagging. Why, in fact, do many hunters, after bagging a jake, seem ashamed of the bird when talking to their friends? The answer lies in a misunderstanding concerning the true challenge of turkey hunting. Jakes, or juvenile males, weigh less than most mature gobblers. Their beards and spurs are also shorter, but weight, beard and spur length are not the measures that define the challenge of turkey hunting.

Wariness is what makes turkey hunting so formidable.

No other game animal is more alert or cautious than a wild turkey. From the day they hatch until the day they die, turkeys are highly desired targets for a host of predators. They live in constant vigilance against danger. For survival, nature has provided them peerless eyesight and hearing and hair-trigger reflexes, of which they make good use.

By spring, jakes have eluded daily perils for 10 months. They are woods-wise veterans and masters of survival. As such, they are elusive prey for any predator, from bobcats to camo-clad humans carrying tightly choked shotguns. Therefore, a jake called in and cleanly killed with one shot represents superior woodsmanship.

Despite the difficulty of calling a jake into shotgun range, some hunters choose to limit their hunting efforts to old toms. Long of spur and beard, gobblers three years old and older comprise a much smaller portion of the spring turkey population than do jakes. For that reason, hunting only mature gobblers makes a tough sport even tougher.

Some hunters claim that older gobblers are more difficult to lure in with calls. Honest analysis, however, would probably reveal that old gobblers are not more difficult to call in than jakes. They simply require different hunting techniques.

Older toms typically do most of the breeding. They have strutting sites where they gobble and attract hens. Skilled hunters scout and find these sites, determine how gobblers travel to them and then hunt along these travel ways. An old tom is easy to call in when a hunter sets up along the turkey's travel route.

Some old gobblers roost with their harem

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