Red Turkey Taken In Tift County

WRD biologist says she only hears about a few of these special birds taken each season.

Mike Bolton | May 5, 2024

Jamal Lane, of Chula, is a rugged guy, a man’s man. He’s a landscaper. He farms on the side. He’s a dedicated turkey hunter who gets up before daylight to chase birds before beginning his regular workday.

He never dreamed that the sight of a special turkey could bring out a different side of himself. Recently, he called in a gobbler that made him just sit and watch in awe. Not because of its size. Not because of its beard. Because of its beauty.

“When it came out and the sunlight hit him, I just sat there and looked at him,” Jamal said. “He was so beautiful I didn’t know if I could shoot him.

“I sat there and thought. I knew it was my chance to tag out for the season, so when he got about 40 yards away, I took him.”

The bird was both beautiful and rare.

WRD’s State Wild Turkey Coordinator Emily Rushton saw a picture of Jamal’s gobbler and she, too, was impressed by its beauty and rarity.

“Red-phase turkeys, called erythristic, are probably the second most common color phase, after smoke phase turkeys,” she said. “Erythrism occurs when dark pigments are not as prevalent in the feathers, leading to a red color in the plumage. I am not sure how many birds have this color phase, but it is pretty rare. I only hear about a couple a year.”

Jamal said it was not a good day to go turkey hunting, and it started out badly, but he said a little prayer. He said it was answered with a turkey of a lifetime.

“I have been hunting this turkey for two years,” he said. “I hunt on family property and have seen him several times but could never get him close enough to shoot.

“On this morning I got up before daylight. There had been a heavy rain. I drove my truck into a cow pasture and started up this little hill. I started bogging down in the mud. So, I got out and grabbed my stuff and walked up the hill to an old oak tree where I was going to sit. I put my strutter decoy out along with some hen decoys and climbed back up the little hill and sat against the oak tree.”

Jamal made a crow call and a turkey 100 yards away gobbled back immediately. Several more turkeys to his right farther away also gobbled back.

“I’ve learned to be patient when hunting turkeys,” Jamal said. “You don’t call too much. This turkey flew down. He must have gobbled 100 times. I could tell he was coming. He came down a fence row and went under the fence. He saw my decoys. He started strutting. The sun hit him, and that was when I saw how beautiful he was. I just sat there and watched him for awhile. He got about 40 yards away, and that’s whenI took him.

“I ran up to him and saw those red wings, and I couldn’t believe it. I called my best friend, and he couldn’t believe it. He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime bird. My friends came over, and we posed for pictures.”

Jamal said he hopes the rare bird had time to spread his genetics. He said he left a number birds gobbling as he completed his season.

Jamal’s special bird sported a 12-inch beard and 1 1/4-inch spurs. He plans to get a full fan mount with the feathers, beard and spurs.

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  1. mhampton80 on May 11, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    That’s a beautiful bird. Job weep done and congratulations brother for thr trophy of a life time .

  2. thomas cellucci on May 5, 2024 at 9:12 pm

    congrats Jamal not only for the bird but the hard work and prayers that made it happen faith and perseverance payed off

  3. Overwatch on May 5, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    Trophy of a lifetime. Congratulations Jamal.

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