The bearded lady

May 1, 2009

Faith Outdoors

During the first part of the week, I was thinking a lot about Bishop Joe Charron of Des Moines and his wild turkey hunt. He had invited me to go down to Missouri and hunt with he and his friend, Joe Lane.

Unfortunately, I had to decline at the last minute, but I kept wondering how things were going in the woods for them. As it turned out, Bishop Charron scored on the first day (Monday), shooting a bird with an 8-inch beard.
Here’s the strange part — that bird was a female, or hen. Normally, only  the males (toms) have beards, which is why the laws in many states, including Missouri, allow only the shooting of turkeys with visible beards.
Bishop Charron and Lane walked up to the bird and thought it looked funny. Further investigation revealed the female gender of the turkey. Some people want to shoot only the males, but Bishop Charron was happy with his bird, which he was in the process of preparing when I called him on Wednesday. As it turned out, it was the only bird either of them saw during the trip. They were supposed to hunt for three days, but left after two due to low bird sightings and bad weather predicted for Wednesday.
Missouri is going through a tough time for turkeys. The state has had poor bird hatches the last two years and may have another this year. The problem has been rain and cold during the critical period after the turkeys hatch in May. Ask any wildlife biologist and he or she will tell you that this is the single most important factor in turkey survival.
Up here in Minnesota, we always equate turkey survival with the severity of winter, but it’s not as significant a factor as people think. Most of the time, turkeys do fine in winter, provided there’s enough food and the birds can get to it. In a lengthy conversation last year with a biologist, he told me the birds can handle the cold as long as they can get to food. It’s heavy, deep snow cover that can cause problems. Even then, they can make trails through the snow to get to food.
Bottom line — turkeys are doing just fine in Minnesota, especially in the southeast portion. That’s great news for me because that’s where I hunt. I have to wait just over a week before my season opens on May 10. I’m getting very antsy, thinking about my upcoming hunt while I lay in bed at night. I really enjoy walking out into the woods in the dark and hearing that first gobble at dawn.
For now, fishing will have to wait.

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek