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Anthony Sasade, 15, with his 30-pound turkey taken in southern Illinois during the youth turkey season. Photo courtesy of Paul Lampley.

Young hunter bags turkey with multiple beards

April 04, 2013 at 09:23 PM

The State Journal-Registe

Anthony Sasade, 15, of Christopher, bagged a wild turkey with at least five beards during the Illinois youth turkey season in southern Illinois last weekend.

Male wild turkeys grow “beards” — thin clusters of feathers (not hairs) on their chests, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The beards average nine inches long on adult males.

About 10 to 20 percent of females also have beards and are known as “bearded hens.”

A photograph of the bird shows the separate beards.

Anthony Sasade's gobbler had at least five beards - thin clusters of feathers growing from the bird's chest. Photo courtesy of Paul Lampley.

Paul Lampley, who manages the farm in Hamilton County where Anthony shot his turkey, said the bird’s five beards measured 30 inches total.

“Indeed this is a pretty rare bird,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources wild turkey project manger Paul Brewer. “Multiple beards do occur — but it is not common, and certainly not that many.

“I cannot be sure by just looking at the photo, but to me it looks like there may actually be seven or more beards — each arising from a separate papilla (raised oval or circle of skin at base of bristles).”

Lampley, who was along on the hunt with Anthony and his father Philip Sasade, said it “was one of the most memorable hunts I’ve ever been on.”

The gobbler, which weighed a whopping 30 pounds, “was incredibly bigger than anything else in the field,” Lampley said.

“He looked like a small Volkswagen bus coming across the field all strutted out,” he said. “His head was as big as a softball.”

Anthony killed the bird at 6:45 a.m. March 30 just as the sun was starting to burn off the morning mist.
Lampley said the turkey came within “20 steps” of the blind in a “textbook hunt.

“It couldn’t have worked any better,” he said.

Anthony helped prepare for the hunt, Lampley said.

“He helped me with picking a blind location and scouting the turkeys,” he said. “He’s pretty beside himself right now.”

The NWTF website has a “calculator” that allows hunters to enter weight, beard length and spur length to receive a score. Anthony’s turkey scored very close to the top 10 Illinois “atypical” turkeys, according to the calculator.

“I’ve had two or three people tell me in Illinois it would be in the top 10,” Lampley said. “That’s not official, but that’s what I’ve been told.”
The turkey has not been scored yet.

Illinois DNR does not keep records on turkey beards, but Brewer said James Dickson’s 1992 book, “The Wild Turkey — Biology & Management” revealed the unofficial record at the time was a gobbler taken in 1989 in Wisconsin that had 8 beards with a total length of about 71 inches.

DNR forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton found a listing in turkey federation records for a Missouri bird taken in 2010 that had eight beards with a total length of 74.875 inches.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at

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