This Turkey Tuesday is about growing up – in this case, the transition from being a jake to being an adult. The other day while archery hunting, I was blessed to watch a group of toms put on a full display of what is involved with becoming one of the men when all you’ve been is one of the boys. Jakes that we saw during turkey season have now grown slightly longer beards like the tom on the right in this picture, but they’re not quite up to snuff with the older guys. These younger toms have also molted more of their tail feathers, and their wings are nearly completely molted so that they wear adult plumage. These toms are often together, they’ll be the groups of 2-year-olds that we encounter next spring that are often so responsive and make us turkey hunters believe in our abilities! But right now, these toms are trying to form fall and winter flocks with older toms, and that process is a bumpy one. The group of birds I observed gave me quite a show, wherein the older toms constantly tested the younger toms, chasing them short distances, hissing at them, and asserting their dominance as the group fed along all around and under me. The younger toms stayed together, would often bring up the rear as the group moved, and paid keen attention to the whereabouts of the older toms. The take home is, winter flocks are comprised of older toms that have spent considerable time around each other and have a defined dominance hierarchy. Although younger toms join them in fall because there is safety in numbers, doing so requires these toms to be at the bottom of the hierarchy that will dictate their lives until winter passes.
Pic © Tes Randle Jolly