LAUREL SPRINGS-A Wilkesboro teen recently bagged a gobbler he’ll likely never forget.
Branson Miller, 13, killed an extremely rare “color-phase” turkey sporting white wings on the first day of this year’s youth turkey season on April 2, while hunting with his dad, Brian Miller.
The bird was colored exactly like a normal tom turkey – except for incredibly distinctive white wings – but the pair didn’t notice the distinction until after Branson had already shot the bird, Brian Miller said.
“We didn’t know it had those white wings until Branson was running to it. I hadn’t even noticed it yet when he yelled ‘look at his wings,” Brian Miller said.
It’s tough to pin down statistically how many birds like Branson Miller’s actually exist, but most state wildlife agencies say they’re rare. Recessive genes or mutations account for the color abnormalities, which can range from melanistic (black) to shades of red and white.
The State of Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, for instance – North Carolina doesn’t have a published figure – estimates more than 95 percent of reported “color-phase” sightings of white turkeys are hens, making a male turkey like the one Branson Miller shot exceedingly rare.
Brian Miller said the turkey was shot after he and Branson had spent the morning trout fishing in Alleghany County near Laurel Springs. The duo switched gears and decided to hunt a Christmas Tree farm in Piney Creek on the afternoon of the same day.
The bird weighed 18-and-a-half pounds and sported a nine inch beard and is currently being mounted by a local taxidermist.
“It’ll be something he remembers for the rest of his life,” Brian Miller said.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.