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Illustration by Ryan Kirby
Ryan Kirby/NWTF

Adjusted weights

by Tom Kelly

Very recently I killed a perfectly average 2-year-old turkey in South Dakota. His spurs were just beginning to point, he had a fully rounded tail fan, an 8-inch beard, and the turkey weighed 20 pounds and 9 ounces.

He is the only 20-pound turkey I have ever killed.

People tend to look at me in disbelief when I tell them that last month’s turkey was the first 20-pound turkey I ever killed in a career that has spanned 70 years, but it is so, and it is so mostly because of where I hunt.

Get a road map of Alabama, open it up and locate a town within that state called Spanish Fort. The town is just across the bay from Mobile. With the center of the circle on Spanish Fort, draw a circle with a radius of 200 miles.

Ninety-nine percent of the turkeys I have killed in my life have come from the north half of that circle — the south half being not huntable because almost all of it is in the Gulf of Mexico. The turkeys that live within that circle almost never weigh as much as 20 pounds no matter what your, or anybody else’s, grandfather had to say about it. I know what Eastern turkeys weigh in Missouri and what Merriam’s weigh in South Dakota, but since none of the northern half of that circle touches either of those two states we have to pick up our bucket where we are.

Once, several years ago, I killed a turkey in northwest Florida the morning of the day I had to catch the plane to come home. The people on the ground called later to tell me the turkey weighed just over 20 pounds.

He weighed no such thing.

I have been an active participant in adjusting the weights of turkeys killed by friends for the last 50 years or so and am considered perhaps the foremost living expert on the matter. I knew exactly what the people who made that phone call from Florida were doing. They were following the approved guidelines, and the guidelines for estimating the weights of turkeys are as rigid as those of the Medes and the Persians and are not subject to either change or individual interpretation.

The way to judge weights properly is to take the turkey that a friend has just shot, a perfectly normal 16 3⁄4-pound 2-year-old for example, and lift him by the feet. Heft the turkey carefully, several times, to demonstrate that care and prudence are going to be the guiding factors behind the judgment. Then announce in the most profoundly magisterial tones of which you are capable, that the turkey weighs a solid 18 pounds.

Your remarks should exactly parallel those complimentary exclamations you heap on the heads of the parents of a perfectly ordinary baby you are meeting for the first time, a baby with his diaper full.

And your actions should be along the same lines as they are when you are shouting, “Great shot, George!” to the most inept hunter in the duck blind when he finally scratches down a hen shoveler.

No turkey whose weight you have just judged should be allowed in the same building with a set of scales, let alone be placed upon them. If you happen to be hunting at a lodge that prides itself on keeping careful records of weights, ages, spurs and beard lengths, you should prudently find business that needs tending to on the other side of the building when such measurements are being taken.

Persons who insist upon trying to tell you what these numbers are should be ignored.

The decision has already been rendered, the results recorded, and further discussion is wholly superfluous.
The intrinsic value of these actions is that they put a drop of the oil of kindness on the squeaky hinges of a cruel and unfeeling world.


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