Would You Shoot a Bearded Hen?

It’s the million dollar question. Would you shoot a bearded hen? With a number of turkey hunters struggling to punch their turkey tag this season, the temptation to lower the standard tends to grow stronger as the end of season draws near. You’ve been there before. Frustration with the season finds you settling for any legal bird. Jakes are no longer safe. But would you shoot a bearded hen? Should you?

I killed a bearded hen out west some 15 years ago. The property I was hunting had an abundance of turkeys, particularly hens. In fact the landowner felt there was an unhealthy number of hens and wanted to reduce the numbers. So on my last day, with a second turkey tag burning a hole in my pocket, I dropped the string on a bearded hen that walked a little too close to my ground blind.

Bro-Bearded-Hen (2)

It’s been a few years now, but when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to send it on this bearded hen.

In that particular part of the country turkey populations were booming, and, as previously mentioned, the area could stand for a healthy hen harvest. However, in other parts of the country this is not the case. In my home state of Tennessee, we’ve experienced a declining turkey population in recent years. The state once had a thriving population with liberal fall turkey limits that included hens. However, in 2018 the state wildlife agency made a move to protect hens from the fall harvest. No longer would hens be fair game in the fall. It was an eye opening move made by the state. They obviously confirmed what turkey hunters around the state already knew – the Tennessee turkey population was not as healthy as it once was in many areas across the state.

So while I was more than willing to help the landowner out west and do a little work on the hen population, I personally would not kill a bearded hen here in Tennessee despite the fact that any bearded bird is legal during the spring turkey season.


Any bearded hen I kill is one less egg layer on the ground repopulating the flock. There’s enough stacked against hens and poults these days contributing to their decline. I figure I need not be part of the problem.

But what about you? Does your state allow you to take a bearded hen? Would you do it? Should you?

Why You Should Shoot a Bearded Hen

Hen populations in your area are out of control and the local flock could stand to lose a hen or two.

She’s in front of you, she’s legal and you got a tag you’re ready to punch.

It makes for a unique experience and trophy.

She’s old, smart and typically leads gobblers in the other direction.

Why You Should NOT Shoot a Bearded Hen

It’s not legal in your state.

Your local turkey population is in decline.

You’re trying to grow turkey numbers on your property.

You’re a big fan of bearded ladies.


This post was designed somewhat as a public opinion poll. We honestly want to hear from you. Would you shoot a bearded hen? Do you think it’s right or wrong to do so? Comment below and let us know why, or why not, when it comes to notching your turkey tag on a bearded hen this season.


Brodie Swisher

Brodie Swisher

Editorial Manager at Bowhunting.com
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
Brodie Swisher


  1. Dedrick says:

    I would not around here just because of the relatively low pop., and the legality however if it was legal and there was a abundance of birds i would definitely fling arrows

  2. John Torchick says:

    How would you tell at a distance of 35-60 yards? I know of a fellow who got a bearded hen last year. Didn’t know it was a hen until he picked up the bird and made a shocking discovery! Yes, in TN, legally, any bearded bird is legal. This comes down to a personal decision.


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