The Bearded Lady
Turkey hunting season had been over in SC for almost a month, but not in PA where the season ended on May 31st. I planned to visit my family Memorial Day Weekend in northeastern Pa and of course, to hunt turkeys. I was born and grew up in Pa, but have resided in SC for most of my life. Since I did not take a bird this year in SC, I was eager to have a successful hunt. I took care of getting my Non- Resident PA Spring Turkey License and was intently looking forward to hunting turkeys on the family farm. With a very limited hunting time available and a whole lot of family get togethers, I had to make the most of it.
My husband was not hunting, but I was happy for him to come along with me. We set up in the blind at 4:30 am and quietly waited for the woods to awaken with sounds of birds singing around us. As light broke, we were excited to see wildlife including a beautiful deer and a very aggressive coyote working the field. It’s coloration blended in with the landscape and it was on the hunt for a meal. It provided us with some great entertainment, but I knew that a coyote would not be good for a hunt as he would scare off the turkeys.
“I laughed to myself wondering if my turkey calling would have have a southern accent!’
One distinct difference in PA is that all bearded birds are legal to hunt in the Spring, unlike SC where it is not legal to shoot bearded females. For those of you who are not familiar, yes about 10 % of female turkeys have beards. Quite often hunters take bearded hens thinking it was a Tom based on the fact that it has a beard.I was so happy to finally see 3 birds about 200 yards away. I laughed to myself wondering if my turkey calling would have have a southern accent! The biggest bird had a 4+ inch beard and as it got closer, I could see it was a bearded hen. Because of my time constraints, I made a decision that I would not hold out for a big Tom. For today, it was about the harvest. I took the bird and my hunt was over. Now, I was determined to prepare the turkey for traditional roasting so I picked the feathers and cleaned the bird so that there would be no waste. Many hunters only harvest the breast meat, but that was never an option for me.
Preparing the Dinner
I made my Mother’s traditional bread stuffing and prepared the turkey for that evening’s dinner. Both my parents have passed and I wanted to make a feast that was reminiscent of the meals we enjoyed as children at Thanksgiving. In her prized roasting oven, I placed the buttered and herbed bird and surrounded it with quartered white and sweet potatoes, long carrots and sweet onions. It was a beautiful dinner and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone!! The next day, I used the leftover turkey meat and made a fresh turkey salad. The best and final meal was a beautiful turkey soup I made using the turkey bones, lots of celery, onions, carrots, fresh herbs and clear spring water. There was absolutely no waste. This is how I grew up. We were very grateful for what we harvested. I had the most wonderful time and am looking forward to going home again!Originally Published Aug. 14th 2016