KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Blue Springs, Missouri, 7-year-old nabbed his first wild turkey during a weekend hunting trip, and it’s a prize worthy of a lifetime of storytelling.
On April 1, Chayson Emmons visited Settle’s Ford Conservation Area with his father, David, and a friend during the spring youth hunting season for turkey.
Chayson and David were scanning the grounds when David noticed something dart across his line of sight.
“I saw something white moving across a field, and I thought, is that a cat?” David said.
It was an all-white turkey.
As David helped his son prepare to shoot, their hunting buddy, Justin Youngblood, began making wild hen calls to draw the bird’s attention. The white turkey gobbled back, and slowly moved toward them.
As the bird drew close, Chayson lined up the animal with his .410 shotgun and fired, dropping the turkey immediately.
“We were looking at (the turkey), and we were stunned,” David said. “I’ve got it at the taxidermist now.”
Chayson was initially worried he’d shot a white duck, but once he noticed the black beard of an adult turkey, he grew excited.
“I thought, I may never see that again,” he said.
The Missouri Department of Conservation, which manages Settle’s Ford, said staff had seen the bird and a few other white turkeys over the years.
Nick Oakley, a wild turkey management biologist and MDC scientist, viewed photos of Chayson’s turkey afterward and confirmed it was a wild bird. The turkey had what’s known as leucism, a genetic condition that causes a partial or total lack of pigmentation. While not as rare as albinism, it is still very uncommon.
“All-white leucistic birds are extremely rare, only one or two are reported each year or two,” Oakley said.
MDC said the all-white birds have a difficult time making it to adulthood.
“The survival rate for young turkeys (poults) is already low,” Oakley said. “But being all white would certainly make it more difficult to evade predation.”