Pleasant surprise!



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+



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