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The property I am hunting has quite a few turkeys on it, several bearded hens. I passed up several opportunities at filling my tag on one. ANY turkey with a visible beard is legal here in Washington, so I would have been well within the law to harves

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  • The property I am hunting has quite a few turkeys on it, several bearded hens. I passed up several opportunities at filling my tag on one. ANY turkey with a visible beard is legal here in Washington, so I would have been well within the law to harves

    The property I am hunting has quite a few turkeys on it, several bearded hens. I passed up several opportunities at filling my tag on one. ANY turkey with a visible beard is legal here in Washington, so I would have been well within the law to harvest one. Talking to the local biologist, the population in that area is healthy and growing, and he said that taking one wouldn't affect their numbers much at all. But my ethics seem to play games with me. Harvesting a hen in the spring just doesn't seem right. If you were in this situation, would you shoot or pass?

  • #2
    Good question. My honest answer is: In theory I would shoot, but in practice maybe not. I had the opportunity to shoot a bearded hen a few years ago, and I passed. I ended up not filling that tag, and I did regret not shooting the hen a bit. I have no qualms about shooting a hen in the fall (when it's legal to shoot any hen), but doing so in the spring just doesn't seem the same. If it was the last day of the season, maybe I would, but I'm really not sure.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by huntfishtrap View Post
      Good question. My honest answer is: In theory I would shoot, but in practice maybe not. I had the opportunity to shoot a bearded hen a few years ago, and I passed. I ended up not filling that tag, and I did regret not shooting the hen a bit. I have no qualms about shooting a hen in the fall (when it's legal to shoot any hen), but doing so in the spring just doesn't seem the same. If it was the last day of the season, maybe I would, but I'm really not sure.
      Pass.

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      • #4
        I'd pass, but only because my personal feeling is that spring turkey hunting is gobbler hunting -- legality aside, I think the desire to shoot a bearded hen in the spring comes from what the books call the "Shooter stage" of hunting. Unless, of course, you honestly need the meat and the bearded hens are all you're seeing ... in which case, I'd criticize nobody for shooting.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Okwaho View Post
          I'd pass, but only because my personal feeling is that spring turkey hunting is gobbler hunting -- legality aside, I think the desire to shoot a bearded hen in the spring comes from what the books call the "Shooter stage" of hunting. Unless, of course, you honestly need the meat and the bearded hens are all you're seeing ... in which case, I'd criticize nobody for shooting.
          All of this being said, I did shoot a bearded hen once when I thought it was a gobbler. I had not yet seen enough turkeys up close to differentiate between the sexes; when I saw the beard, I knew it was legal and I shot it. It was a mighty miserable feeling when I cleaned it and found it full of eggs. Perfectly legal, and I enjoyed the meat, but it still didn't feel very good.

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          • #6
            I would pass, but I wouldn't have any problem if someone else(you) decided to shoot. It is legal, so it should be your own personal choice.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Okwaho View Post
              I'd pass, but only because my personal feeling is that spring turkey hunting is gobbler hunting -- legality aside, I think the desire to shoot a bearded hen in the spring comes from what the books call the "Shooter stage" of hunting. Unless, of course, you honestly need the meat and the bearded hens are all you're seeing ... in which case, I'd criticize nobody for shooting.
              I don't know...I think you open up a whole 'nother can of worms regarding it being part of the "shooter" stage. I mean, why is shooting a hen in the spring fundamentally different than shooting one in the fall, which most hunters don't seem to have a problem with? Either way you're still removing a hen from the landscape, and eliminating any chance it might've had to produce more turkeys. I'm not saying I disagree that it feels different, I just don't know why it should, logically-speaking.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Okwaho View Post
                I'd pass, but only because my personal feeling is that spring turkey hunting is gobbler hunting -- legality aside, I think the desire to shoot a bearded hen in the spring comes from what the books call the "Shooter stage" of hunting. Unless, of course, you honestly need the meat and the bearded hens are all you're seeing ... in which case, I'd criticize nobody for shooting.
                I thought of that when I wrote that comment, and can't deny that it seems contradictory. But like I said in my answer, it's just mainly my personal code, in that I see fall turkey hunting and spring turkey hunting as two different things, not just the same thing at different times of the year. It's not an aversion to shooting a hen; it's just that for me, spring hunting is gobbler hunting, with the mating, calling, etc.; whereas fall hunting is more general turkey-hunting, with some calling but more scouting, patterning, etc. So, in the fall, any sex is the quarry you're after, but in the spring, you're just after gobblers, and shooting a bird you know to be a hen is simply shooting something just because it's legal to do so. Again, this is just how it stacks up for me in terms of my own personal values and ethics.

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                • #9
                  I have passed on shooting bearded hens, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone else for doing it if it's legal where they hunt. (In Iowa, the regs state a legal bird is a bearded or male turkey.)

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                  • #10
                    The only reason not to shoot a bearded hen is to keep your tag open so that you can keep hunting. I'll pass on gobblers if they appear too soon during a long season. Hens with beards are anomalies, genetically defective and biologically speaking probably should be culled.
                    My question is - If you saw these turkeys on the last day during the last hour of the season would you shoot one?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by charlie elk View Post
                      The only reason not to shoot a bearded hen is to keep your tag open so that you can keep hunting. I'll pass on gobblers if they appear too soon during a long season. Hens with beards are anomalies, genetically defective and biologically speaking probably should be culled.
                      My question is - If you saw these turkeys on the last day during the last hour of the season would you shoot one?
                      Yes, I think I would. That's an interesting point about them being a genetic anomaly that should be removed from the breeding population. I never thought about it before, but it makes sense. Do you feel the same way about albino deer? I hear that's a touchy issue over in WI.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by charlie elk View Post
                        The only reason not to shoot a bearded hen is to keep your tag open so that you can keep hunting. I'll pass on gobblers if they appear too soon during a long season. Hens with beards are anomalies, genetically defective and biologically speaking probably should be culled.
                        My question is - If you saw these turkeys on the last day during the last hour of the season would you shoot one?
                        Bearded hens breed, lay eggs and raise broods just as any other hen. I have never read or heard of any biologically sound reason they should be killed over any other bird. I would need to see some pretty strong evidence to change my mind on me shooting one. If I pass on shooting something on the first day, I will pass on the last too.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by charlie elk View Post
                          The only reason not to shoot a bearded hen is to keep your tag open so that you can keep hunting. I'll pass on gobblers if they appear too soon during a long season. Hens with beards are anomalies, genetically defective and biologically speaking probably should be culled.
                          My question is - If you saw these turkeys on the last day during the last hour of the season would you shoot one?
                          I did mean to imply they should be killed "over any other bird" just that they are not normal and like white deer there is no reason to protect them. Both make special trophies, if one is into that sort of thing.
                          To my knowledge there are no comprehensive studies on bearded hens, probably because there are few of them to study. These hens have been observed with and without poults which makes it hard to draw a definitive conclusion.
                          The advantage of shooting a legal hen- more tender, better tasting and if they had eggs in them those a rare delicacy.

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