Old research suggests to turkey hunters that hen's head is focus of gobbler's attention
Just saw this – it’s not new but very timely, two weeks before the opening of spring gobbler season in Pennsylvania …
Science blogger Mike Berger recently noted that a Penn State research project, focused on turkey-mating behavior – published way back in 1965 – made a New Scientist magazine list of the craziest scientific experiments of all time.
Thing is, it doesn’t seem so crazy to me. Here is how Berger described the study of what he called the “horny little guys:”
“While researching the sexual behavior of turkeys, Martin Schein and Edgar Hale of Pennsylvania State University discovered that male members of that species truly are not fussy. When placed in a room with a lifelike model of a female turkey, the birds mated with it as eagerly as they would the real thing.
“Intrigued by this observation, Schein and Hale embarked on a series of experiments to determine the minimum stimulus it takes to excite a male turkey. This involved removing parts from the turkey model one by one until the male bird eventually lost interest.
“Tail, feet and wings – Schein and Hale removed them all, but still the clueless bird waddled up to the model, let out an amorous gobble, and tried to do his thing. Finally, only a head on a stick remained.
“The male turkey was still keen. In fact, it preferred a head on a stick to a headless body.
“The researchers speculated that the males’ head fixation stemmed from the mechanics of turkey mating. When a male turkey mounts a female, he is so much larger than her that he covers her completely, except for her head. Therefore, they suggested, it is her head that serves as his focus of erotic attention.”
There is no mention in the literature about whether Schein and Hale were turkey hunters. I’m betting not. And I have no idea what turkey hunters can take away from this old research. But still, it’s fascinating.