Killing a turkey is an achievement. Shooting one with a bow is impressive. Shooting a bearded hen with a bow is the stuff of legend. Travis Sykes of Leasburg did just that April 26 when he killed a 10-pound, 9-ounce hen that sported an 8 ½-inch beard. The bird closed to 15 yards before catching an arrow from Sykes’s bow.
Sykes had a friend who had seen the bearded hen on April 25 and told him about it that evening.
“He was telling me and my son Levi … how he saw a hen with a beard on it,” Sykes said. “My boy was laughing at him, talking to him about how he was crazy: ‘The gobblers are the only ones that have got beards, not hens.’”
The next morning proved Levi wrong. Sykes and his friend put out a decoy and set up in a blind to wait for the special Caswell County bird. The morning was cool and the action slow for the first hour or two, but a hen approaching from across the field drew the hunters’ attention.
“He got all excited and said, ‘Oh man, that’s her! That’s the bearded hen!’” Sykes said. “I’ve heard about bearded hens, but always heard that if they did have a beard there really wasn’t a whole lot to it, kind of sparse like a second beard on a gobbler. But she actually had a pretty decent-looking beard.”
With his friend videotaping the action on his iPhone, Sykes waited until he could shoot the turkey out the front window of his blind, then center-punched her with a Rage 2-blade broadhead.
“She was trying to run, but the arrow was kind of flipping her over,” said Sykes, who had taken off work that Sunday to attend a funeral and took advantage of North Carolina allowing Sunday hunting with archery equipment on private land.
Sykes contacted the National Wild Turkey Federation and has registered his kill for inclusion in the group’s record book.