How to Score a Turkey
Scoring a turkey can have several different meanings. If you haven’t gotten one yet, it
can simply mean reducing a bird to possession, which can be a very intensive task in terms of time and effort. After accomplishing that, a hunter might want to rate their prize, which could involve lengthy consideration of past hunts and bestowing some subjective value of how that particular bird and hunt stack up. There’s also a means to ascribe an objective, numerical score to a turkey that’s much quicker and easier.
The National Wild Turkey Federation maintains official records of wild turkeys taken by
fair chase methods anywhere in the world. Their scoring system consists of a combination of
three measurements as follows: Score = (weight in pounds and ounces) + (2 x beard length in inches) + (10 x (right spur length + left spurt length, in inches)). NWTF maintains Wild Turkey Records not as a ranking system but as a permanent record of all birds harvested by its members. However, some state or regional trophy clubs maintain their own records and ranking systems using the same scoring method. Whether you enter the official records or not, it’s still
nice to have some subjective measure of your bird. Here’s how you do it.
Weight is measured to the nearest ounce on a certified scale. Though not required, live
weight is recommended as it obviously yields a higher score. The sooner a bird is weighed, the better, as it may lose blood and body fluids and dry out over time.
The total weight should be considered from a local perspective. Weight can vary over the wild turkey’s geographic range and subspecies. Eastern birds tend to be the heaviest, with the largest specimens often coming from the central U.S. Average weight is around 18 pounds, but birds in northern or southern states may be slighter, while midwest heavyweights can range up into the mid-20s.
Beard length is measured from the center point where it protrudes from the skin to the
end of the longest bristle. That last part is important. Bristle length tends to be fairly uniform
on an individual beard, but you may have one or two that are noticeably longer. Pay particular
attention to these as they will boost your score. Occasionally, a bird will have more than one
beard. Such toms are categorized as non-typical. In this case, the combined length of all birds is
summed, then multiplied by two.
Beard length tends to be more consistent across the turkey’s range but can also be highly variable. Beards grow quickly at first, then growth rates slow. Once a beard grows long enough to reach the ground, the ends can get worn. Snow and ice may collect on the beard causing the ends to break off, and some birds get beard rot.
Spur length is measured along its outside edge, from that point where it protrudes from
the scaled leg skin to the tip of the spur. Both spur measurements should be made to the
nearest 1/16 inch. Measurements are then combined and then multiplied by 10.
In part, the high multiplier acknowledges the value of an older bird as spurs continue to grow, also becoming sharper and more curved throughout a bird’s life. Longer spurs mean a way old gobbler who’s been through several seasons and worthy of greater recognition.
There are no minimum size qualifications for entry in Wild Turkey Records. Official registration forms are available from the NWTF. All entries must be signed, witnessed and mailed to the National Wild Turkey Federation, P.O. Box 530, Edgefield, SC 29824-0530. For more information and to download record forms visit www.nwtf.org
Superlatives from NWTF Records
Heaviest Weight: 37.6 lbs.
Longest Beard: 22.5"
Longest Spur: 2.5625"
Highest Overall Score: 195.5
Most beards: 13
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