Perfect timing!

 

It was a little chilly this morning as I made the trek to one of my favorite roost sites.  The moon was so bright, you could see your shadow on the ground!  This makes it a little more difficult to get in tight to roosted birds, as you can imagine.  The sky was partly cloudy & I kept hoping it would cloud up a little before I reached the roost site.  When I topped the ridge, I began to scan the treetops & didn't find any birds on the flat where there's been a few roosting lately.  So I continued on as quietly as possible trying to stay in the shadows of the larger trees as I went.  It wasn't until I got within 100 yards of the "traditional" roost trees, that I noticed a few blobs in the treetops.  I could see several birds sitting on the limbs of a gnarly, old red oak.  I could also hear the sounds of a gobbler spitting.  I looked at some of the surrounding trees for other birds before sneaking any closer.  I didn't see any that were closer to me or in my way, so I slowly crept closer.  I cut the distance in half & just as I was wondering if I'd be able to get any closer, the moon went behind some clouds at just the right moment!  I didn't waste any time & made my move.  When I closed to within 20 yards, I could see thirteen turkeys that were spread out in front of me.  One bird in particular was doing all the strutting off to my right a little.  I sat down at the base of a medium sized red oak & got situated.  All the while, that gobbler off to my right was standing up & strutting.  I could also see another gobbler directly in front of me that was roosted very close to several other birds that I hoped were hens.  He was "fanned out" almost continuously & not making a sound.  The gobbler off to my right was going in & out of strut & spitting every time he would puff up.  I finally got my camera gear set up & settled in for what I hoped would be a great morning.  After the moon dropped out of the sky & daybreak closed in, the strutter off to my right began to gobble!  A hen tree yelped afterwards.  Then a few other birds on distant ridges began to gobble.  The gobbling slowly picked up, but didn't really intensify.  The hens remained fairly silent.  When there was enough light to see, the strutter off to my right pitched down & landed within fifteen yards!  Then the other gobbler in front of me joined him.  They strutted around on the flat just to my right while all the other birds in the treetops watched from above.  The gobblers on the ground continued to strut & gobble a little as some of the hens began with some light, under the breath yelping.  Then one by one, about half of the hens dropped off the limbs without doing much talking!  I was a little surprised at the way they were acting.  Once on the ground with the gobblers, one hen in particular started "playing" with the one strutter!  As he strutted close to her, she would jump & circle around him.  This ritual went on for a while as I watched out of the corner of my eyes.  I didn't dare move the camera ninety degrees to my right because they would surely see me!  I thought for certain I would witness that hen breed with the dominant gobbler.  She did sit for him once, but as he circled around behind her, she jumped up & moved away.  The other hens still in the treetops just watched.  A few didn't even pay attention, as they preened themselves.  The "party" slowly moved off to my right & out of sight.  I could hear a couple of the hens lightly yelping as they went.  Finally, the remaining hens in the trees began to talk a little.  Nothing much, just some soft yelping.  The "party" would answer every now & then & sounded like they were maybe fifty yards or so over my right shoulder.  Then a hen off to my right cackled as she came down!  I was zoomed in on a hen that was still on the limb.  She began to lightly yelp every now & then, but never did a whole lot of talking.  Then a couple other hens yelped softly before they dropped to the ground.  A few others followed without making a sound.  From time to time, one of those longbeards behind me would gobble.  The hen I was focused on then pitched down fairly quiet & the rest followed.  Eventually, they all got together on the ground & slowly moved off.  After everything I went through to get in there, I was hoping they would have talked a little more than they did.  But looking back, I know how lucky I was to get that tight to them with a full moon like that.  The clouds covered it up at the perfect time!

 

Sunrise:  7:17 a.m.

 

Temperature:  27 degrees

 

Wind:  2.5 mph or less

 

Barometer:  30.15 & steady

 

Location:  southwest Pennsylvania

 

# of gobbles heard:  40

 

 

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