At the end of the 2011-2012 deer season, my friend George had a flock of turkeys move in on him while hunting in Lincoln County, Tenn. He was watching the flock when a large tom appeared and chased off all the other toms. George said the tom had something on its head similar to a mohawk.
He asked if anybody had ever seen a turkey with feathers on its head. Everyone made fun of him and told him he was crazy. So, when George took me turkey hunting in April 2012, he told me to shoot the odd bird if I saw it.
I was working a tom in a large field one morning. The gobbler got within 50 yards and then bolted into the woods to my right. I looked up to see a young deer bouncing around in the field.
These woods are about 50 feet wide with a second field on the other side. A large ditch runs through the middle of the woods, so I planned to use that as a travel and spot route.
I ran to the ditch, crawled up the other side and slowly looked out into the field. The grass was high, so I rose to my feet but still couldnt see anything in the field. I made one yelp and a bright red head popped up right in front of me. I instantly noticed the feathers on top of his head.
Georges mohawk turkey was within 20 yards of me. I swung, shot and dropped the bird quickly.
I ran over to him, took pictures of his head and sent one to George, who was just up the hill from me. He couldnt get there fast enough, wanting to take pictures to send to his doubting friends.
We have showed the bird to lots of people, and have yet to find anyone who had ever seen a turkey like it.
Tim Burnette, via email
There are anomalies and abnormalities in every species. Examples include unusual color phases in wild turkeys, piebald deer, does with antlers, bucks with three antlers, hen turkeys with gobbler plumage and the list goes on.
I have live trapped more than 1,000 gobblers and about 2,000 hens over the years and have never encountered a gobbler with headgear. All wild turkeys have some feathering on their heads. Most of the feathers on the heads of adult gobblers are found around the ear openings and as hair-like feathers on other naked portions of the head. The crown or ơ:head plumeƢ is likely an abnormal growth of the regular head feathering.
—Bob Eriksen, certified wildlife biologist and NWTF Conservation Field Supervisor for the Northeastern United States