GON subscriber Ken Hamil, of Marietta, killed a rare erythritic, or red-phase, gobbler on a Carroll County cattle farm Tuesday, April 3.
“I have killed a few turkeys over the years, but the reason for sending GON this bird was because of the red wing feathers,” said Ken. “I have been hunting them for 30 years and haven’t run across one in the wild.”
Ken actually captured trail-camera photos of this turkey prior to the 2017 season.
“I knew I wanted him, but I never saw him turkey hunting last year,” said Ken.
“Tuesday I heard a bird gobble and was able to set up within a couple hundred yards. I had no idea I was calling to the actual bird I hunted all last season. I had a jake and a hen decoy out, and when he spotted the jake, he made a beeline.
“I could have shot him when he first entered the field, but he had a jake directly behind him, and I didn’t want to kill the jake.
“By the time the jake got clear, the gobbler jumped my jake decoy. It wasn’t until he pounced on the decoy that I saw the red on the wings. What impressed me was he broke the decoy stake, and it’s not that flimsy. He also punched three holes in it. I have seen them jump decoys on TV and now I know why I have never seen this. I don’t let them get that close.”
Ken’s bird weighed 24 3/4 pounds, wore a 9 1/2-inch beard and had 1 1/4-inch spurs.
“Wild turkeys have four distinct color phases all caused by recessive genes or gene mutations,” said Kevin Lowrey, WRD’s wild turkey project manger.
“The most common is the smoke phase, which is the salt-and-pepper looking grayish turkey. Then there is also melanistic or black phase, the erythritic or red phase and a true albino. The true albino would be the most rare.
“Melanistic and the erythritic phases are a bit more common than a true albino turkey. In Georgia, we see more melanistic turkeys than erythritic. Any color phase turkey is a very unique trophy.”
Kevin said in his 15-year career with WRD he has only seen two red-phase turkeys in Georgia. The red color can appear on the tail, wing or body feathers.