Hunting Rare “Smoky Gray” Turkeys

Smoky Turkeys

What is the greatest trophy hunters of wild turkeys can get?

Is it the Grand Slam with all varieties of wild turkey in states? Or is it simply a giant bearded, heavy spurred bird of one’s favorite subspecies. A Merriam’s perhaps-TF&G Hunting Editor Lou Marullo’s favorite.

In my opinion it would be one of the super rare color variants that occasionally creep into the gene pool.

According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, individual differences in feather coloration are probably the most reported oddities. 

“The late James Kazmierski and his son, Steven, compiled a detailed article titled, “Turkey Plumage: Color and Composition,” in which they state that the genetics responsible for these variations have not been well documented.” 

A smoky gray-almost silver eastern phase turkey from Feathered Frenzy Farms. The owner contacted Chester Moore after reading an article on unusual turkey color phases. HIs birds are from a wild strain but have been domesticated for decades. The particular birds are in enclosures so they cannot breed with other birds. This bird and others were born in 2018 after numerous generations of producing standard-colored turkeys.

They noted the Kazmierski’s list eight plumage types found in domestic turkeys. They go on to speculate that since domestic turkeys originated from wild stock, the genes responsible for such plumage types are probably found in wild populations as well.

“One of the most common color variations is the “smoky gray” color phase. Turkeys with this variation appear white from a distance.” 

A super rare smoke phase oceloa mount displayed at the National Wild Turkey Federation in Nashville

“Upon closer examination, however, it is obvious that these birds’ appearance is due to a loss of brown or bronze pigments while the black areas of the feathers remain.” 

“Every year, the NWTF  receives reports of turkeys in a smoky gray color phase, and many turkey hunters have seen at least one during their time in their field. This recessive trait seems to occur more frequently among hens, but is still occasionally seen in gobblers.”

NWTF officials said this trait is probably detrimental to survival–it makes the turkey more visible–some smoky gray wild turkeys may survive for several years. One smoky gray hen in Georgia was observed with a normal brood of poults each spring for five years.

They added that melanistic (black) and erythristic (red) color variations also are reported each year, but are not as common as the smoky gray phase. Albinism is also reported.

The MAD Smoky Baby Decoy actually uses the odd smoke color phase to attract birds of normal plumage. It seems that in nature anomalies are sometimes hated by turkeys and in some cases birds are extremely attracted to them. Either way this decoy can help you score on birds.

The MAD Smoky Baby Decoy

Have you ever seen a turkey with one of these color phases? If so, email me at cmoore@fishgame.com and share your story or photo/video if you have one.

Chester Moore, Jr.


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