This is one of the first turkeys I ever put in the freezer. At the time we were hunting in the Fairview area, better know as the “turkey capital of Michigan.” We were just fledglings at the sport of hunting these birds, as we thought you could hunt them like you do pheasants.
We had been seeing some birds hanging around a grassy/dried up swampy area, and figured we’d drive it like a stubble field. The four of us spread out across the field and started our march toward the other end. Just before we ran out of real estate two turkeys took to flight, and scared the dog fur out of me! I pulled up on the bird closest to me as my brother Darryl is hollering “hen-hen!” I was still on the bird as it started to fly up and over a small patch of woods, when he yelled “that ones got a beard it’s a Tom!” Boom! My model 870 rang out, and I dropped that bird at near 60 yards! (Honest) Sure enough Darryl was right; this little Tom had about a 4″ beard. He wasn’t as colorful as I expected, but I was elated to fill my tag, and put meat in the freezer.
As I was cleaning the bird, back at the cabin, I pulled out something very strange from it’s innards. They looked like eggs! I called my brother over and asked “whats this?” He was as confused as I was, cause this bird defiantly had a visible 4″ beard. We both thought “Boy did we screw up!” I went into the cabin and called the Mio D.N.R. field office, and explained the situation to the officer I had on the phone. He told me to read my turkey hunting regulations, and I would find where they changed the wording from “one male (Tom) turkey” to “One bearded turkey.” He explained that in previous years they had run into this same problem, thus the word change to the regulations. He said it was rare, but bearded ladies (hens) are taken every year. I was relieved that my “Tom,” who was really a “Bearded Lady”, was a legal addition to my wild game menu.