As I reached the top of the ridge this morning, (a full 2 hours before the break of day) I thought I heard a turkey yelp! I thought I was hearing things, so I stood there cupping my ears & sure enough, I heard it again. It sounded like a jake yelping, with it's bugling quality & cadence. I wasn't sure WHY they were up & talking already, but I continued towards them. I hadn't walked 10 yards farther when I heard a few deer take off running in the frosty leaves! I thought to myself, "THAT'S why!" Those deer were probably walking all around underneath them. The deer stopped & I could hear one of them stomping at me. I stood still for a while, but I didn't have time to wait on them. So, I slowly snuck my way towards the roosted birds & hoped the deer didn't ruin my morning. The wind was in my favor, so the deer couldn't get my wind. As I got within 100 yards of the roost site, I stopped & scanned the treetops with my binoculars. I could see turkeys scattered everywhere! It was going to be a challenge, for sure. I had to walk directly underneath at least four birds to get closer to the rest of them. Those deer eventually moved on. Every now & then, a distant jake would yelp as I snuck (like a cat) to where I wanted to set up. I slowly inched my way under those birds & had to chuckle as droppings fell from the treetops landing near me in the crunchy leaves! Once I got past those few birds, I stopped at a big oak tree & dawned some extra clothes. It was now 5:39 & as I got dressed, I could see turkeys all around me as I looked toward the sky! I thought about continuing on, but I was in a good position to film several birds right there. So I decided to just set up where I stood. As I got my camera gear ready, I could already hear the spitting of gobblers out in front of me! The sound of rustling feathers & turkey droppings hitting the dry, frosty leaves were all around me! I was finally set up & ready by 6:30 (roughly a half hour before it began to slowly break daylight). I hit the record button & hoped it was going to be a good morning. Those jakes really stole the show with their "down yelps" & gobbling. Every now & then, a hen would start to tree yelp, but those jakes would interrupt. By the time the song birds began chirping, the jakes really fired up! It sounded like some of the birds that were strutting jumped in with gobbles of their own as well! Once I had enough camera light to zoom in on a bird, I hoped it was a hen. All I could tell was that it wasn't a lonbeard & it was still sitting down & preening. It sounded like some of the birds I had to walk underneath & get past were hens. But I couldn't see them because they were either straight above me or behind me. Pretty soon, a few birds pitched down, (which were those loud jakes) & that started a chain reaction. Bird after bird began to decend to the ground & those jakes were just going nuts! A few of the hens were nice enough to cackle as they pitched down, which made me feel good! A lot of the birds that were still in the trees seemed to be hens at this time & they were tree yelping as the jakes on the ground continued to yelp & gobble. Finally, the trees were empty. But the racket continued for the next hour or so as they slowly put distance between us. When I got the chance, I packed up all my gear & took the long way out to avoid spooking them. But it was a very good morning!
Sunrise: 7:24 a.m.
Temperature: 27 degrees (partly cloudy)
Barometer: 28.83 & rising
Location: southwest PA
# of gobbles heard: 150+