The varying laws from state to state regarding shooting hens may confuse turkey hunters, especially those who hunt in multiple states. Many hunters ask, “Is it even okay to shoot hens?” The answer, simply, is yes, where it is legal, of course.
“It is strictly a management decision based on population levels,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF’s director of conservation services.
The strength of a state’s turkey population determines if hens should be killed. It is up to the state’s resource management organization to set the laws and regulations for killing hens when it meets their management objectives.
Many states allow taking hens in some capacity. For instance, some states allow hunters to kill any bearded turkey; about ten percent of hens develop a beard, so killing a hen in this sense is rare but nonetheless allowed. Where legal, bearded hens are fair game in the spring and fall seasons.
Other states with robust turkey populations explicitly allow hunters to kill hens, but only in the fall, when hens have already raised their broods. In these states, there will usually be an abundance of hens, and managing the population is paramount to keeping flocks healthy.
“When you are hunting hens where it is legal, hunters are not harvesting enough hens to impact population levels,” said Hatfield.
The state’s laws and regulations are set using scientific recommendations and evidence to ensure healthy wild turkey populations endure for many generations.