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Toms with Multiple Beards

This Turkey Tuesday is about toms with multiple beards – something I’ve posted about before but a topic that’s always of interest with turkey hunters. Toms with multiple beards, like this really nice tom recently photographed by Clayton Worrell, are not common – it is believed that only single digit percentages of toms in our populations sport more than one beard. We know that beards emerge from a specialized structure on the skin called a papillae. Why some toms have multiple papillae, and therefore grow multiple beards, while most do not is unclear. What does appear to be consistent across toms that grow multiple beards is that the primary beard is on the bottom and is longest, while also containing the most filaments. The other beards emerge above the primary beard, and are typically thinner and shorter. The most beards recorded on a tom is 13, and they measured nearly 80 inches in length when all combined! There are various theories floating around about toms with multiple beards producing hens with beards, or hens with beards producing toms with multiple beards, but there’s no science demonstrating such. Folks also speculate that toms with multiple beards may attract more hens, may be older, or may be more dominant, but there’s no data to prove those assertions. Regardless, being lucky enough to harvest a tom with multiple beards is something highly prized by us turkey hunters – I’ve personally only harvested one although I have friends that seem to have Lady Luck on their side nearly every season!

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