A male wild turkey normally has one spur on each leg to help him dominate other gobblers in the competition for hens.
Spurs generally get longer and sharper over time – like dominance of the birds. Gobblers occasionally have more than two spurs, similar to other abnormalities in nature.
A gobbler with five spurs is so rare that only three eastern wild turkeys with that many have been reported to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) – and one was harvested in Wilkes County. Tim Parsons of Moravian Falls bagged it in the Pores Knob community on April 12, 2017.
The veteran hunter recently learned that the five-spur bird currently is second in a NWTF ranking for “Best Overall Eastern Typical with multiple spurs” with a score of 80. “Multiple spurs” refers to more than two.
The top wild turkey in this category, bagged by a hunter in eastern Tennessee in April 2016, scored 81.5.
A wild turkey’s weight, beard length and combined spur length are used in a calculation to determine its score.
Parsons’ unique gobbler weighed 20.5 pounds, its beard was 9.1250 inches long and its spurs ranged from 6/16 to 1.2500 inches long.
Parsons said he first saw the bird while hunting late in the day on April 11, 2017, but chose to not fire because cattle were between him and the turkey.
He returned to the same spot early the next morning and saw the gobbler with five hens. Using both a slate and a diaphragm turkey calls, Parsons drew the male turkey down from a forested ridge to within 15 yards before firing.
“I could tell right away that there was something unusual about the gobbler,” said Parsons, adding that he soon realized it had more than two spurs.
“I did nothing special that day. The good Lord just blessed me to harvest this rare bird He created.”
He later learned from John Miller, owner of Nature Creations Taxidermy in Morganton, that the turkey actually had a very small fifth spur. Miller, originally from Wilkes, mounted the animal.
Parsons said the gobbler was 5-6 years old, which is considerably older than the normal lifespan of an Eastern wild turkey.
Karen Cavender, NWTF wild turkey records coordinator, said that out of 27,739 wild turkeys registered with the organization, four had three spurs on one leg and two on the other. She said these include eastern wild turkeys and all other subspecies of wild turkeys. Eastern wild turkeys are the domination subspecies in the eastern U.S.
Cavender said 15 registered turkeys had three spurs on one leg and three on the other, including 14 eastern wild turkeys. She said 86 out of the 27,739 wild turkeys registered had multiple spurs on each leg.
Fewer than 2% of mature gobblers have one spur or none. It’s more common for gobblers to be missing a spur on one leg than to not have any.