A good friend of mine was out doing some muzzleloader hunting yesterday afternoon & bumped into a good sized flock of turkeys not long before dark. When he told me about his encounter, I couldn't help but get a little excited. The winter has been mild so far this year & there's no snow on the ground to contend with. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to attempt to locate them, then crawl under them & film them in the morning! He told me they fanned out across a decent sized hardwood hollow & landed on the opposite side. I didn't know exactly where they'd be roosted, but his description would give me a place to start...
As I climbed that far-side ridge this morning, I hoped I could find them before it got too late to get within spitting distance. I bumped a deer halfway back to where I thought they might be roosted. It ran up over the edge of the top bench & out the ridge, snorting as it went. I let things settle down & thought to myself, that might have been a sign! So I started walking up to that top bench where the deer was, but decided to drop down lower on the sidehill in order to see up through the treetops better. It is much more difficult to look down into the hollow & see birds in the treetops. I'm awfully glad I did that, because not too far back from where I ran into that deer, I saw a blob in a treetop below me! Turns out, it was a turkey! I scanned the surrounding trees & could see a cluster of birds in another large oak tree. That was my target. But I would have to sneak under the closest bird to get within 20 yards of that cluster of birds. I slowly inched my way down the hill hoping this would pan out. When I got within 5 yards of the closest turkey, I laid all my camera gear down & put on some extra clothes using a large oak as a shield. Quietly, I dawned some extra layers & watched the rest of the birds, which were mostly still sitting on the limbs. Once I got dressed, I was fortunate to swing around the lower side of the big oak I was using as a shield & get set up with plenty of time to spare! Best I could tell, it looked like a flock of hens & jennies. I counted several times & came up with 33 birds total. As daybreak approached, a few of the birds began to stand up, look around & shake their bodies as if to wake themselves up. The first notes uttered were the tiniest clucks, not to be heard more than a stone's throw away. The wind began to pick up & sway them back & forth in the treetops. I sat there hoping to capture some good kee kee audio, thinking there may be some other birds out the ridge that might have gotten separated from the rest of the flock last night. One hen in particular was a little uncomfortable on the small limb she was perched on. So instead of teetering in the wind, she attemped to slide up the limb to a more stable part of the branch. But in doing so, she got a little too close to another hen. That hen got a little aggravated & gave some soft, "spacing" purrs & clucks. Once I had enough camera light, I zoomed in on a cluster of seven birds. Some more subtle clucks & muttled tree yelps could be heard. They all began to move around a little more. Then another hen that was being blown around more than she wanted to be, took to the air & switched trees for a bigger limb. That sparked some excitement in the others! They began to cluck & yelp a little more. Still not very much volume in their calls, just loud enough for me to hear twenty to thirty yards away. Then the occasional whine could be heard. The tree yelps became even more numerous as the ground became more visible to them. Finally, an older hen ramped up her yelping & went straight into a beautiful, fly down cackle! The rest of the birds followed & within forty seconds, they were all in the leaves, walking away & bringing an end to my first day filming a roost site in 2016. I can't think of a better way to start the new year!
Sunrise: 7:44 a.m.
Temperature: 30 degrees
Wind: 11 mph
Barometer: 29.99 & rising
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 0