What’s the Deal with Jake Turkeys? A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Hunting These Young Gobblers

So you’re a turkey hunter, huh? You’ve got your sights set on a big, beautiful gobbler, strutting his stuff and gobbling like a champ. But what about those smaller, younger turkeys you see hanging around? Are those jakes, and if so, should you be targeting them?

Fear not, fellow hunter, for this guide is here to answer all your burning questions about jake turkeys. We’ll delve into the world of these young birds, exploring their characteristics, how to identify them, and whether or not they’re worth adding to your hunting bag.

Let’s get started!

What is a Jake Turkey?

A jake turkey is a young male wild turkey under two years old. They’re essentially the teenage boys of the turkey world, full of energy and enthusiasm, but still lacking the experience and maturity of their older counterparts

Identifying a jake turkey can be tricky, especially for novice hunters. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some key characteristics to look for:

1. Size: Jakes are smaller than adult gobblers, typically weighing between 8 and 12 pounds.

2. Plumage: Jakes have a duller, more brownish plumage compared to the iridescent feathers of adult gobblers. Their heads are also less colorful, lacking the vibrant red and blue hues of older birds.

3. Tail Feathers: Jakes have shorter tail feathers than adult gobblers. The tips of their tail feathers are often rounded, while adult gobblers have pointed tips.

4. Beard: Jakes may have a small beard, but it’s usually less than 6 inches long. Adult gobblers, on the other hand, can have beards that are 8 inches or longer.

5. Spurs: Jakes lack the long, sharp spurs of adult gobblers. Their spurs are typically short and blunt.

6. Behavior: Jakes are often more active and vocal than adult gobblers. They may gobble frequently, but their gobbles are usually higher-pitched and less resonant.

Now that you know how to identify a jake turkey, let’s talk about whether or not you should hunt them.

Should You Hunt Jake Turkeys?

The decision of whether or not to hunt jake turkeys is a personal one. There are pros and cons to consider, and ultimately, the choice is up to you.

Here are some factors to weigh in your decision:


  • More plentiful: Jakes are more abundant than adult gobblers, making them easier to find and harvest.
  • Less wary: Jakes are less experienced and cautious than adult gobblers, making them easier to approach and call in.
  • Good table fare: Jake turkeys are still delicious to eat, even if they’re not as big as adult gobblers.
  • Population control: Harvesting jakes can help to control the turkey population, which can benefit the overall health of the flock.


  • Smaller size: Jakes yield less meat than adult gobblers.
  • Less challenging: Hunting jakes can be less challenging than hunting adult gobblers, which may not appeal to some hunters.
  • Ethical considerations: Some hunters believe that it’s more ethical to harvest older, mature gobblers.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to hunt jake turkeys is a personal one. Consider the factors we’ve discussed and make the choice that feels right for you.

Remember, responsible hunting is always important. Be sure to follow all hunting regulations in your area and only harvest turkeys that you are comfortable taking.

Jake turkeys are an interesting and often overlooked part of the turkey hunting world. By understanding their characteristics and behavior, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to include them in your hunting plans.

Happy hunting!

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

The Kentucky hunt had been great. Id 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.

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.

In the many years since then—nearly 20 as I write this—it has become one of my favorite Bluegrass State hunts.

However, even this older guy has developed a fondness for young gobblers, particularly on fall turkey hunts when I specifically hunt them.

Reasons for taking a jake follow. There are also times you shouldnt.

You’re a Young Hunter

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

Youre a veteran hunter, but . . .

The young male turkey that entered the shooting range first appeared older, gobbled fiercely, and gave you one amazing hunt. You are an experienced hunter.

At the Ranch: Know the Difference Between a Jake & a Tom


What is considered a Jake turkey?

Gobblers & Jakes On adult gobblers (called toms), the beard can be 7-9 inches or more in length, but on young gobblers (called jakes) the beard is <6 inches long. Typically, gobblers hang out away from hens during the summer since they take no part in raising young.

Why are turkeys called Toms and Jakes?

Since turkeys are obviously not cats, the phrase was shortened simply to “tom.” Juvenile males are also known as “jakes,” while the young female turkeys are known as “jennys.” Part of the mating process is attributed to the tom’s ability to “gobble” loudly enough to both attract the hens and dissuade other males.

How old are turkey jakes?

Months later, male poults become jakes. These birds are approximately one year old. They typically weigh 12-18 pounds, sport 2-6-inch beards, display tail fans with taller middle feathers (shorter feathers to each side) and have short, nubby spurs.

Are Jake turkeys good to eat?

It’s your choice. After all, you don’t eat the beard or spurs, and jakes taste way better than turkey permit stew.

What is a Jake Turkey?

Let’s take a closer look at the gobbler! Jake turkeys are juvenile males that were hatched in the year prior. Typically, they are only one-year-old birds. These birds often have immature features such as smaller beards, shorter spurs, and lighter colors.

What is the difference between a Jake & a tom turkey?

Jakes typically have shorter beards that range from 3-6 inches in length while mature Tom turkeys have longer beards that can reach up to 12 inches in length, or even longer! The coloration of the beards can also vary; Jakes usually have lighter-colored feathers compared to Toms which are usually darker or reddish brown.

What is the difference between a Jake and a Tom?

Hunting turkeys: Jakes vs. Toms, how to tell the difference. Toms are turkeys over one-year-old. They have beards at least six inches long that point down and their tail feathers of all the same length–creating a fan that’s even and rounded. Toms have spurs 1/2 inch or longer, with males over five often having spurs over 1 1/2 inches.

Should you shoot a Jake Turkey?

A jake turkey is a one-year-old male turkey. Not fully mature yet, you can draw parallels between a jake and a spike buck. Like the spike buck, many hunters will not shoot a jake. Let’s get into more detail on how to identify a jake turkey and whether or not you should shoot one. Jakes or “shortbeards” can be identified by their stubby beards.

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