Once again, I decided to try a new roost site for the year. This particular spot, for whatever reason, didn't produce much last year. Aside from that, it's been a reliable roost site for many years. It's a steep, wooded sidehill that is situated above a pretty good-sized hay field. There's some bigger timber along the lip of the steep ledge where these birds normally like to roost. The hillside wraps around into a fairly deep hollow on both ends. Like I said, this was to be my first visit this year & I didn't know what to expect as I started into the woods a full two & a half hours before sunrise. The sky was pretty clear & the full moon was really bright again. As I angled up the hill towards the roost site, I began to check the treetops for turkeys. From a distance, I couldn't see any birds. So I slowly inched my way, angling up the hill past all those bigger roost trees...nothing! I continued sneaking up the hill until I nearly reached the ridgetop & still hadn't seen any birds in there. My hopes for some good roost footage went out the window because I couldn't find a turkey in there! I couldn't believe it becuase this had been such a good, traditional roost site for probably the last 10 years or more. I didn't have enough time to leave & get to another roost site, so I just flopped down there & waited for daybreak. It was about 5:30 (an hour before it would start to break), & I dozed off for a while. But I was awakened by a gobble! I wasn't exactly sure where it was. I checked the time...5:51. I hoped he'd gobble again soon because I didn't have much time to move. He gobbled again just down over the hill maybe 100 yards away! I thought to myself, "I walked right past that bird & didn't see it!" So I grabbed my camera gear & started creeping down the hill. He gobbled sporadically as I slowly made my way to him. But I didn't dare get any closer than 50 yards. The darkness was beginning to turn to a shade of gray. So I set up as quickly as possible & he continued to gobble! I could see him strutting on the limb, silhouetted against the clear, eastern sky. The hill was so steep, he was eye level with me! I thought he was alone, but I was wrong. As I got set up, I heard a hen tree yelp! She sounded like she was maybe 20 yards down the hill from him. I couldn't see her because I was looking down into the treetops instead of up into the skyline. Just as I hit the record button, I heard another bird gobble across the hollow! Then, what sounded like two birds together, I heard another gobble out the ridge behind me! That hen got a little louder with her yelps & they all started hammering! Especially the bird across the hollow. He gobbled 15 times in a row at one point! Then I heard wingbeats below me. It wasn't long & the longbeard pitched down out of the frame of my camera. He landed not 10 yards to my left & headed out the ridge towards that field. Pretty soon, I heard at least four other birds pitch down. It wasn't long & it sounded like they all got together in that field. After a while, I got up & swung down around to the lower side of that field & I could see three, full-fanned strutters & five other turkeys, which looked like hens. I left them alone & again thought to myself, "how did I walk past those birds?" Sometimes it's tough to see turkeys when walking out a sidehill like that. Unless you're below them looking up into the treetops, you can walk right past them. I was just glad they were in there again this year!
Sunrise: 6:57 a.m.
Temperature: 44 degrees (32 degrees in the bottom when I parked the truck)
Wind: 1 mph
Barometer: 30.07 & steady
Location: Southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 130+