Dang jakes!


To say the least, it was very chilly this morning! There was high pressure & a pretty good frost on the ground as I made the trek into another roost site. It made things a little more difficult, that's for sure! The sky was partly cloudy & the moon wasn't visible today. As I started up through the woods scanning the treetops, I had a hard time seeing my hand in front of my face, let alone birds that might have been thirty or forty feet in the trees! But I slowly continued, inch by inch. I finally spotted a bird that was directly uphill from me & maybe twenty yards away when I first saw it! It was facing me & as I looked up the steep incline, it seemed way up there! I looked around in some of the surrounding trees & spotted another one that was below me & maybe forty yards from where I stood. Then I found another! They were roosted in sort of a triangle. I continued to look for more, but that's all I could find. So I decided to move a little & try to set up right in the middle of them. As I made my way towards a good sized cherry tree to get set up, I noticed another blob in a tree out the ridge a little farther. It was probably another sixty to seventy yards out the sidehill. I thought about moving out that way because there might have been more that I couldn't see. But I decided to play it safe because it would be very difficult moving past the birds I was under & making it to the far turkey before it started to break daylight. So I got set up by 6:00 & waited for some action...As daylight drew nearer & nearer, I could hear the sounds of droppings hitting the frosty forest floor. Feathers could be heard rustling every now & then as the three birds around me would shake themselves. The babbling brook below me had a hypnotizing effect & put me to sleep. Then finally, some birds that were roosted across the creek began gobbling! I still couldn't tell what the bird was in front of me because it was facing away from me & still sitting on the limb. Eventually, it stood up, turned a little, & I could tell it was a dang jake! I kept hoping there was at least a hen or two close by. Once there was enough camera light, I zoomed in on the jake in front of me & watched him look around as the distant birds gobbled. But he didn't gobble! As a matter of fact, there wasn't a bird on my side of the creek that gobbled. The only sounds he made were some single note yelps every now & then. The two other birds that were roosted just uphill & behind me didn't say a word. I sort of figured they were probably jakes too. But I wasn't sure. The more the birds in the distance gobbled, the more the jake in front of me would yelp. But he still wouldn't gobble! I kept slowly tilting my head up in the air to try & make out what the birds behind me were. But I just couldn't turn my head far enough to be sure. Then all of a sudden I heard an excited hen yelp off to my left! It was the bird that was farther out the ridge (the one I thought about moving closer to). This jerked a short, broken gobble out of the two birds behind me, so I knew they were both jakes as well. The jake in front of me got a little excited & turned on the limb, looking all around. There ended up being two hens out the ridge from me. They yelped every now & then & I kept wishing I would have been out there under them. But I just couldn't have taken the chance. Eventually, one of the jakes behind me pitched down. The other two soon followed & made their way out the sidehill towards the hens. I could see four jakes once they were on the ground & heading out the ridge. They sort of hung around on the ground about halfway between me & those hens gobbling every time one of the hens would yelp. Then they gave up on them & headed up over the ridgetop. Those two hens stayed on the limb preening & yelping from time to time as the distant birds continued to gobble across the creek. Then one of the gobblers over there seemed to get closer & closer every time he would gobble. Eventually, I could see him in the bottom on the other side of the creek just strutting. He slowly got closer & closer to the roosted hens until one of them flew down across the creek with him! I lost sight of them after a while. But I could still see the other hen & she was still on the limb out there. Finally, she dropped out of the tree on my side of the creek & I lost sight of her. A little later, I could see that longbeard across the creek strutting again. I couldn't see the hen with him though. He started gobbling again & eventually walked over to the creek & flew across to go after the second hen! That just goes to show you that a gobbler will sometimes cross a creek or any other barrier to get to a hen if he's in the right mood. But I gave them some time to get away from me, packed up my camera gear & snuck out of there. It's been a little while since I've been set up underneath some talkative hens. For whatever reason, I keep running into jakes & longbeards. But it was still a good morning!

Sunrise: 6:52 a.m.

Temperature: 21 degrees

Wind: 2 mph

Barometer: 30.25 & rising

Location: southwest Pennsylvania

# of gobbles heard: 70

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