What to consider when taking a jake

by Marty Roberts | March 27, 2015
Spring turkey hunt

It’s just breaking light and multiple gobbles rattle the morning silence. You soon hear birds hitting the ground. You have visions of a two-bearded 25-pounder running right up to your decoys. But nothing appears.

An hour passes and you have heard and seen nothing since. You start thinking the old toms went the other way and it’s time for a break. Then, out of nowhere, there’s a succession of gobbles. Three jakes come wandering in.

Their heads are bobbing around like octopus tentacles and they are as awkward as their human teenage counterparts. But the shot presents itself and you now have to make a decision. Do you take a jake?

Jakes are wanderers

Before you decide, you may be interested to know a few facts. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) states that almost 7,000 turkeys were reported as harvested last spring in Ontario. That was down from the year previous, but the difference was attributed mainly to winter severity and a late spring. For the same time period, the MNRF also stated the percentage of jakes in the reported harvest dropped from 33 per cent to 23 per cent.

The jakes you see may be from a different area and your local jakes may be miles away.

It is important to note that turkeys, especially jakes, are wanderers. The jakes you see may be from a different area and your local jakes may be miles away. If you choose to pass on a jake, it may have no bearing on your local flock size.

Easier when they are alone

Like a gobbler of any age, when jakes are alone they are much easier to approach. A lone turkey gives you a chance to move or get ready when it turns its back. A trio of rubber-necking shortbeards offer no such opportunities.

They most often travel in groups of three or four. When one or two turn their back the others are bobbing their heads around just daring you to flinch. Not getting busted takes on a whole new talent on your part.

It’s your decision

The decision to harvest a jake is yours alone. Perhaps it is more important to you to have the thrill of a challenging hunt, but I truly believe that if you were to listen to any number of tales of past turkey hunts and remove any reference to beard and spur size, the stories will be equally as interesting and exciting.

When you tell your friends about the turkey that hung up at 80 yards for more than an hour, I guarantee they will be sincere in their congratulations no matter the age of the bird. You might also consider that if you take that jake, it won’t be there next year to breed and possibly present you with another great hunt.

The challenges are the same and the fun in calling a bird in is no different. In the end the only difference is the size of the trophy and a few pounds on the dinner table. It’s nice to have options.

Editor’s note: This story cites data that was current when it was posted (circa 2015). Below are updated numbers from 2021.

2021 wild turkey mandatory reporting infograph
Photo from Ontario.ca

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