I haven't had much luck finding hens lately. So I figured I'd try another roost site this morning. It's one I haven't tried yet this year & I knew there were birds using it. It was very chilly as I made my way in & there was a pretty good frost on the ground. The sky was clear & the moon was once again going to make things difficult. This roost site is situated on a relatively steep, hardwood sidehill with a creek below & a hay field above. The moon was so bright, I didn't want to approach it from the field above. So I decided to come in from the bottom & hopefully be able to see the birds in the skyline better. But I underestimated the moon! I was sneaking up the hillside & looking right into the bright moon! But I slowly inched my way in there & eventually found a few turkeys, almost at the very top of the hill! I scanned the surrounding treetops & could see maybe six birds that were roosted fairly close to each other. I was about eighty yards away when I first spotted them. As I got closer, I noticed a few others. I stood there contemplating my final approach when I heard "splat!" A dropping smacked the leaves not fifteen yards to my right! There was a turkey roosted just to my right that I hadn't seen. I thought about sitting down where I was standing, but I wanted to get up there closer to the rest of the birds. So I dropped down on all fours & belly crawled up the steep incline with a camera in one hand & a tripod strapped to my back! Inch by inch, I made my way straight up the hill & managed to get within twenty five yards of the majority of the turkeys. As I began to get my camera gear set up, I heard the turkey I just crawled past (behind me & off my right shoulder) spit! Pretty soon, a bird out the hillside gobbled & then some jakes above me calked. I sat there hoping I wasn't set up underneath a group of gobblers. I kept thinking there has to be some hens in there too! I could hear droppings hitting the frosty leaves & feathers rustling as turkeys began to shake their bodies to wake themselves up. The gobbling picked up as daylight approached & finally, I thought I heard a light tree yelp from a hen off to my right. But I wasn't sure. Sometimes those jakes can fool you. The gobbling continued all around me & off in the distance too! Pretty soon, some more scratchy tree yelps from a hen! I could tell she was one of the birds directly uphill from me. But I wasn't sure which one she was. There still wasn't enough camera light to zoom in. Another bird began clucking every now & then. I'm pretty sure the clucks were coming from one of the jakes off to my right about fifty to sixty yards. They had a bugle-like quality to them. The chorus of gobbles continued until that hen with the scratchy sounding tree yelps jumped in! I recognized her right away because I have some footage of her last year in early April. A wood duck flew up the creek & gobblers erupted the whole way out the hill! Then the scratchy yelps grew a little louder. She sounded really good! But the gobblers just drowned her out. As soon as she'd start yelping, the gobblers would jump all over her. Then some other older hens joined in with some raspy tree yelps! I finally had enough camera light to zoom in on what I thought was that scratchy sounding hen. But it turned out to be a different hen & a jake. The scratchy sounding hen began to yelp more & more. I just couldn't tell which bird she was. But I got some really good audio of her yelping! The hen I was zoomed in on with the camera just kept preening. The jake, who was roosted just below her on a different limb just stood there looking around. Every once in a while, he would cough out a short, half-hearted gobble. The other gobblers kept hollering until one bird finally pitched down. This started a domino effect as more birds dumped out of the treetops. The scratchy sounding hen continued to yelp & so did one or two other hens. Then the rest of them came down out of the trees. They all pitched uphill away from me & into the field above. Once on the ground, some of the jakes were yelping a lot. Then it got fairly quiet. From time to time, I'd hear some jake yelps. They seemed to stay pretty much in the same spot for a while, but I couldn't see up there. Eventually, the sound of the gobbles seemed to get farther away. So I got up when I got the chance & snuck back down the hill & got out of there without spooking anything. I'm having a little bit of a tough time this year finding talkative hens without a pile of gobblers around them. But I was fortunate to get some good audio of that scratchy sounding hen! That makes all the work getting into position worth it!
Sunrise: 7:03 a.m.
Temperature: 26 degrees
Barometer: 30.31 & steady
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 100