Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - 35

gobbler's beard, or its size, first? Whenever facing a bully, most animals usually
judge size. It's almost a pillar of survival in
the wild and elsewhere. And there's little
doubt it works both ways. Bullies, after
all, have picked on runts forever.
Turkey beards grow until the bird dies.
And because they can't roll them up, or
braid them, those beards take a beating,
especially in winter, when they can freeze
and break off. That's when a wayward
jake that measures strength Samson-style
will take a beating from a 3-year-old tom
with a snapped-off beard.
Unlike antlers on a whitetail or incisors on a coyote, beards simply aren't
that intimidating. That goes for multiple
beards, too, which occasionally gobblers
and hens can grow. Beards apparently are
just beards, in nature.

BRINGING IT HOME
Beards seem to matter more to turkey
hunters than turkeys. Even then, many
turkey hunters take the first sizeable
bearded turkey to come their way. The
length of the beard - and spurs, for that
matter - is usually a secondary consideration. It's not like you get to be choosy
that often!
More often, the true significance of
beards usually doesn't manifest until after
the shot. If a gobbler has a big one, it's a
big deal. Most hunters check the size of
it, too. But even then, the beard often is
secondary to a boss gobbler's weight. And
neither are listed in records to immortalize
such legendary wild fowl.
So, at the end of the day, a beard on a
turkey is not unlike a beard on a person.
Some people find it attractive. Some don't.
But thank God we don't grow beards on
our lower necks. That, it seems safe to say,
would not be attractive in human beings
of either sex!
MAY 2021	

BEARDED HENS
Often called " spring gobbler season, " hunters
in Pennsylvania's spring turkey season may harvest
only bearded birds.
That means a hunter always must verify a beard
is present before attempting to harvest a spring
turkey - even if that turkey clearly is a gobbler.
But it also means a hunter seeing a bearded
turkey should be careful to identify it as a gobbler
- and not a hen that's capable of breeding and
raising young - before taking aim.
About 10 percent of hen turkeys have beards,
but except for their beards, those hens are just like
any other. They can be productive breeders, and the
female poults they raise might or might not grow
beards as adults.
While it can be difficult in some situations to
distinguish bearded gobblers from bearded hens,
here are some helpful tips:
Take note of the bird's size. Males have long
legs and, in Pennsylvania, might tip the scales at 25
pounds, while hens top out at about 14 pounds.
Check for the black-tipped breast feathers
that give the gobbler an overall dark appearance
with glints of iridescence. Hens have brown-tipped
breast feathers that typically cause them to appear
lighter than gobblers.
Look for a red head that's bald of feathers
to help identify a gobbler. The red, white and blue
colors on a gobbler's head typically are bright. Some
dominant hens can have slightly reddish-looking
heads, but they're normally bluish-gray. All hens
have some small feathers up the back of their neck.
Even on young jakes, beards on gobblers
typically are thicker than those on hens. While a
hen's beard, like a gobbler's, grows with age, even
a lengthy beard on a mature hen likely will be
comparably thinner compared to that of a gobbler.
Note the bird's behavior. If it looks like a hen
and acts like a hen, it's probably a hen, even if it
has a beard.
Hunters occasionally have difficulty distinguishing bearded gobblers from bearded hens, and the
law that permits all bearded spring turkeys to be
harvested ensures hunters won't be punished for
honest mistakes.
Overalll, few bearded hens are taken in the
spring. In recent years, hens have accounted for less
than 2 percent of the state's spring-turkey harvest.
Turkey hunters always are wise to pass up
springtime opportunities to take bearded hens.
Allowing those hens to breed, nest and raise young
helps ensure the turkey population in their hunting
areas will thrive.

35



Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021

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Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Intro
Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Contents
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Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - May 2021 - Cover4
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