For the average turkey hunter, a bearded hen is something you don't see everyday — one with a beard long enough to rival a full-grown gobbler is pretty darn rare. Shoot it with a bow and arrow and you've got a real anomaly.
That's exactly what Rusty Moore of Gibsonville, N.C. did on the morning of April 16. He arrowed a hen over 11 pounds with a 9 ¼-inch beard, tying the North Carolina beard-length record for a bearded hen archery kill.
That morning, Moore was nestled in a Yukon Tracks pop-up blind overlooking the corner of a field on his 214-acre lease in Rockingham County. He expected turkeys to visit this open area to preen after a night of rain.
Just after daylight, Moore began calling with a diaphragm and a slate call. Although he heard a gobble about 200 yards behind him, what he saw was the bearded hen, emerging from the woodline.
“The first thing I saw was the beard,” said Moore. “When she raised her head up, I said, ‘That ain’t no gobbler’ — the hens are a lot smaller and have a bronze color. She walked right out to the decoys. I’ve got an old full-strut mounted gobbler that I made into a jake by putting a jake fan on him and I had an Avian-X laydown hen right in front of him. She walked right between them.”
As the hen approached his blind at 8 yards away, Moore drew his Bowtech RPM 360 and released an Easton Lightspeed arrow that carried a 100-grain, 2-blade Swhacker broadhead through the mesh window. The arrow struck the base of the neck angling toward the hip and the hen hobbled 15 to 20 yards away before coming to a stop. Moore reloaded and flung another arrow. This one hit directly in the back and the hen limped another 10 yards into the woods before collapsing. Soon after, Moore called his son, Dustin, to tell him the good news.
“My Dad called and said that he had killed a bearded hen,” said Dustin Moore of Gibsonville. “I told him to send me a picture and I saw the beard. It was as thick as a gobbler and looked to have some strands that were over 9 inches. So, I started to look into it. I thought that's got to be a super rare bird. I called the National Wild Turkey Federation and got in touch with them.”
That’s when Dustin found that his dad’s turkey would tie the hen Brett Bueltel arrowed in Davidson County in 2013 (registered with the NWTF in 2017) for beard length.
Although Moore’s initial reason for killing a bearded hen was to mount and use as a decoy, the rarity of the bird has likely changed his mind. He’ll still mount it, but she’ll sit in the trophy room instead of the field.