White Turkey Killed In Chattooga County

The verdict is still out on whether this mountain bird is a true albino or not, but Les Hutchins was still pretty shocked to kill this unique bird.

Brad Gill | April 3, 2019

Les Hutchins, of Flintstone, killed a gobbler in Chattooga County on March 31 that was nearly solid white.

“I’m 56 years old, and I’ve been on that farm since I was born,” said Les. “I’ve been hunting turkeys on there since we had them, maybe 30 or 35 years, and I’ve never seen a solid white turkey there. This bird had a black beard, a little bit of color on its head, and its toe nails and spurs were white.”

Since the gobbler is in a freezer and needs to be looked at by a biologist, it’s still unclear whether or not this is a very rare albino or a cross between a wild turkey and a domestic bird. Les is not aware of any turkey farmers in the area that raises white, domestic turkeys, and in his 56 years of stomping this tract of hunting land, he’s doesn’t know anyone who has ever raised tame turkeys in the area. Les definitely wants a WRD biologist to look at the bird to determine if it’s an albino or not.

“We had 20 to 25 mph winds that morning, it was cold,” said Les.

Since Les has turkey hunted the place for three decades, he pretty much knows what the birds will be doing. His setup was in a little patch of pine trees, where he waited to see if a bird would gobble.

“I heard him gobble once in the tree when a crow flew over, and it shocked him,” said Les. “The next time I heard him gobble 30 minutes later, he was on the ground and had moved closer to me.”

A flock of hens began to pour out of the trees and landed 25 feet off Les’s right shoulder. As Les watched the hens, he saw just beyond them the white gobbler, although he wasn’t sure it was a gobbler just yet.

“When I first saw it, I thought a white trash bag had blown in there,” said Les. “But when the hens hit the ground, I was looking at the hens and he went into full strut. He was 30 to 35 yards over my right shoulder. I was able to turn all the way around in that little patch of pines I was sitting in. The movement of the pines in the wind was the only way I didn’t spook them. That’s the only thing that saved me.”

His shot was true, and Les walked over to the bird and discovered it had about a 10-inch beard, 1-inch spurs and appeared to weigh a little more than 20 pounds.

“I was looking at him, and I was shocked. I called my son-in-law and told him he wasn’t going to believe it,” said Les.

According to Tom Glines, a senior regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, the wild turkey has four distinct color variations from what is considered the usual plumage—smoke phase, erythritic or red phase, melanistic or black phase, and true albinos, which are pure white with pink eyes. Although these color variations are uncommon, the smoke phase is the most frequently seen, while the albino is the most rare. Some say the albino is as rare as one in 100,000. Recessive genes or mutations account for the color abnormalities.

When GON spoke with WRD Biologist Kevin Lowrey regarding the gobbler, he said the best way to tell if a turkey is an albino is to look and see if its eyes are a pinkish color after the kill. He also added that these genetic mutations can be passed on to future turkeys.

“I saw a white gobbler two years ago, but it wasn’t completely white, it just had a lot of white on it. I have seen some hens over there that have had some white in the wings in the past 25 years,” said Les.

We will update this story of the white gobbler from Chattooga County once the bird is examined by a biologist. Whatever the genetic make-up, this bird was roosting with hens, gobbling and strutting, and Les Hutchins had a heck of a hunt and got a very unique gobbler.

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  1. Blake Hamby on April 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I just googled the life expectancy of a turkey and it says 10 years… I cant say for certain if this is the same bird or not, but without a shadow of a doubt I have seen this bird or another one exactly like it roughly 5 years ago on the way home from trout fishing on John’s Mtn WMA. My cousin and I were on the way home from catching trout and spotted a flock of birds in the woods just off the road. We stopped to glass them, and spotted an albino tom strutting behind a hen. Whats the chances this is the same bird? I wouldn’t think it would be likely, but maybe there’s some more of those genes in them woods.

  2. gr8shot on April 4, 2019 at 7:12 am

    A few years ago i saw a nearly all cream colored bird in a flock of about 12. It was just outside of Cades Cove in Tennessee. I took some pics of it. It was a light cream color with slightly darker color bands on the tail and wings.

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