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Illinois hunting and fishing

Turkey tales: A bearded hen

April 03, 2009 at 06:55 AM

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Prairie State Outdoors readers can win one of five CamoFlex systems we will be giving away in the next two months. To enter the drawing, submit a turkey hunting story and picture via e-mail to: Turkey Tales Stories can be about this season's hunt or any previous season.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here in the words of Clay Flock of Collinsville is the story of his son Ryan’s successful 2008 youth turkey hunt in Pike County.

It was opening day 2008 Spring Youth Turkey season. This would be the last Youth Turkey season for my son Ryan. We had hunted this season twice before and were successful on opening day each time. We were hoping to end this final spring youth season the same way.

It was a beautiful morning with starlight and no wind. The ground was moist and we made very little noise walking in the dark. The owls began to hoot very early and we heard the first gobbler cut loose well before sunrise.

We had previously set up three ground blinds weeks before and after hearing the gobblers on the roost we agreed to sit in a blind just over a hill at the edge of a CRP field about 300 yards from the gobblers.

The gobblers would have to come into the CRP field in order to get to us. Ryan had set up one hen decoy about 30 yards in the CRP field facing away from the gobblers. Once we got settled in the Blind, we just listened and waited.

We did not hear one hen but heard two gobblers. After 45 minutes in the blind we heard the birds fly down. I could tell there was a lot more than the two gobblers. I used a mouth call (double-reed diaphragm) to make a few soft yelps. The gobblers answered right back. Then we heard a lone Hen start yelping about 250 yards to our right over the hill.

The gobblers and 20 or so hens started across the field to our right about 120 yards. The two big mature toms just strutted back and forth with the hens just scratching and pecking the ground. I would call with yelps, cuts, purrs and cackles for two hours trying to bring the toms to our decoy. However the lone hen 250 yards on the other side of the birds was giving me some serious calling competition and the gobblers would only come within 75 yards of our decoy, then turn around go back towards the hens and the lone hen that kept calling against me.

These toms both sported 10-plus-inch beards and easily weighed over 20 pounds each. One tom strutted over the hill towards the lone hen that had been calling against me all morning. Out of nowhere, “Whoom!” A gun went off. This trespassing hunter was well over 300 yards over the fenceline on our family farm in Pike County.

After his shot, the birds scattered in every direction. I tore the zipper off the blind getting out and Ryan followed me towards the fenceline, putting ourselves between the trespasser and the nearest fence. We waited a couple of minutes and we saw the trespasser walk out into the CRP field about 150 yards from us.

I yelled at him to wait for me to come over to him, but he turned around and took off running. Ryan wanted to run him down, as he runs the mile in track and thought he could catch him, but I said to let him go. I had no idea who it was or if anybody else was with him.

When we got to where the gobblers had been in the field, we did not find anything but an unloaded shotgun shell. On the public road about 600 yards from where we were, 20 minutes later, we heard someone start up a pickup truck and listened as it drove off. We tried to locate some more gobblers that day but there were none to be found on our farm.

As we were walking back to the car, I yelped a few times. When we were 80 yards in the timber from the car, Ryan asked if I had heard a hen calling. I replied you dummy, that’s me calling. We took another step and saw a bearded hen 20 yards in front of the car take off flying across the valley. I told Ryan I was the dummy, not him. I also told him it was a sure sign to call it a day, given the day we had with hours of turkey hunting, a trespasser and then a bearded hen right in front of the truck.

The next day we hunted as hard as I have ever hunted turkeys. We saw gobblers with hens but could not call them within range. With the last hour of hunting time upon us, we sat down against a large white oak tree and I started to call. A gobbler responded 100 yards away, in the timber over a small hill. I called on and off for 40 minutes, but after 30 minutes the gobbler quit responding.

I told Ryan, “Let’s go back to the car now.” I figured that way if the bearded hen was standing there again he could shoot her. I couldn’t stand the thought our last youth turkey hunt ending like the day before. So we stood up and got our things together. There was 10 minutes left of hunting and our last youth turkey season would be officially over.

The car was only a couple hundred yards away and we had plenty of time. We took about three steps and 40 yards over the hill in the timber, a tom gobbled. I told Ryan, to sneak up the hill and the first turkey you see with a beard shoot it. We went about 25 yards up the hill and to our right was a multiflora rose bush. On the other side of it I could see was the tail fan spread out on the tom.

I told Ryan, “Take a couple steps to the right of the bush and shoot the tom.” But when Ryan took a step to the right, the tom took off flying through the timber directly away from us. I yelled shoot, but Ryan didn’t feel comfortable taking the shot a flying turkey.

I told him if it is an open shot and the bird is flying directly away from you, put the bead under the bird and shoot. You can’t kill it if you don’t shoot at it. Ryan knew the season was over and said, “C’mon Dad, let’s go home.”

At that very moment, a bearded hen that had been with gobbler behind the rose bush took off flying directly away from us just like the gobbler. Ryan pulled the Remington 870 up to his shoulder, aimed and “Whoom!” The hen continued to fly another 50-60 yards and landed in a fallen tree top.

I told Ryan to check the safety button on the gun and we walked up to fallen tree top. But the bearded hen was nowhere to be found. When I started to lift up a branch to look under it, the hen took off flying again.

This time Ryan shot again at about 10 yards away and 10 feet in the air. The No. 4 shot pellets literally pushed the hen another 5-10 feet before it hit the ground. I made sure Ryan was OK and the gun was on safety. Then we walked up the hen and saw her 7.5-inch beard. I looked at my watch and it was 1 minute before the end of the season.

I showed Ryan what time it was and gave him a big hug. He put the tag on hen. Although we had been disappointed with the opening day hunt with the trespasser, and hunted our hearts out for two days, it all seemed worthwhile now. We started to walk back to the car, and thanked God for such a great hunting experience.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Hey Clay, great story and congratulations Ryan on a fine bird.  Hope you get that one mounted, because it’s a rarity.  Only about 7% or 8% of the hens sport a beard.  A flying shot at a wild turkey is one of the most difficult shots that you can make as a sportsman.  Sounds like Ryan has been trained properly in his woodsmans and shooting skills.  Have a great turkey season.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/03 at 08:00 AM

What a neat story! Congratulations!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/04 at 12:57 PM

WOW….thats not just a typical bearded hen , thats truely a big dandy beard !!!!  Congrats on a fine rare bird !!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/05 at 01:42 AM

It is interesting that only 7% - 8% hens have beards.  I am Ryan’s older brother (Ricky Flock) and I shot a bearded hen in the fall before that on the same farm.  A couple years earlier our Neighbor shot a bearded hen also off the Flock farm.  In a weeks time, I myself will be heading out for those old toms.  Who knows, maybe I will get another bearded hen.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/07 at 03:45 PM

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