Frozen roost

The sky was clear as a bell & it was cold for the second week of April! There was a hard frost as I climbed the steep incline. This was my first time visiting this particular roost site this year & I was hoping there would be some birds in there. I didn't really know what to expect because I haven't been to this farm since this past November. The plan was to find some birds, get underneath them & then put some extra clothes on once I got set up. But the crunchy leaves slowed me down quite a bit & I had some trouble finding any turkeys! But eventually I did spot a blob in the treetops about sixty yards from me! I was on the edge, looking down the steep sidehill at an angle when I finally saw it. I looked around & couldn't find any other birds. So I immediately thought it was probably a gobbler. But it was the only game in town, & I was running out of darkness. So I needed to get closer. I slowly made my way down the slope, my left hand on the ground almost laying on my side! It's the best way I can think of to go down a steep slope quietly. It takes a lot of your weight off your feet & allows you to place each foot down a little more gently. Plus it helps to keep you from sliding in the leaves as much. As I closed the distance & got farther down the slope, the skyline revealed a few more turkeys! I could see at least four birds & they were all roosted with their backs to me. Anyways, I finally got to within twenty five yards of the closest one somehow & I had to hurry because the eastern sky was beginning to turn orange. I got my camera gear set up, but there wasn't enough time to put my extra clothes on! It was really cold & I hoped that didn't cost me. I worked up a lot of body heat walking in, so I figured I'd be ok. It wasn't long & two separate turkeys gobbled way off in the distance on another ridge! Then another one gobbled right after that within thirty yards of me! I had no idea that bird was there. So it caught me off guard, to say the least. He was roosted to my right & there was a big tree between us. For the next ten minutes or so, they all gobbled pretty good. I kept looking at the four birds in front of me, just hoping they were hens. But I couldn't tell yet. Pretty soon, the closest bird to me started clucking. When it turned it's head to the side, I couldn't see a long snood, which is typically what I look for to discern between a hen & a jake (if the bird is not strutting). But that doesn't always hold true. Sometimes a jake's snood will be small & erect like a hen's. But when you're looking at a silhouette, that's the best method I've found. It sounded like a hen when it was clucking. But the clucking only lasted for maybe thirty seconds or so. The gobbling continued at a steady pace. Then about ten minutes later, some more very light clucks from one of the other birds in front of me. Those gobblers kept hammering every five seconds it seemed! Finally, a few soft hen yelps. Eventually the gobbler beside me pitched down onto the bench below & began strutting around under some of the hens. When he did that, the hens began to tree yelp a little more! Then a couple other birds I hadn't previously seen revealed themselves when they stretched their wings. They too looked to be hens! The gobbler below me continued to spit & drum as he strutted for the ladies. Then some crows flew in & started raising heck. They spotted the turkeys too & made a lot of racket. The sun began to rise & the frost on the limbs glimmered in the early morning glow. I could also see frost on the back of the one hen I was zoomed on with the camera. Eventually, one of the hens to my right pitched down & worked up the hill towards the ridgetop with the gobbler in tow. Then a minute or two later, another hen dropped to the ground. Meanwhile, the three right in front of me just sat on the limbs preening. Pretty soon, those two hens on the ground started jawing back & forth at each other! They just kept yelping at each other & you could hear the tension building in their calls. I couldn't see them up there, but the closest hen was probably only forty yards from where I sat. They ended up getting together & moving out the ridge away from me with the gobbler. The three hens still in the trees stayed there for some reason! They really didn't talk a whole lot. They just preened & soaked up the sun. One hen actually sat there for a long time with her head tucked under her wing. At that point, I wished I would have had time to put those extra clothes on! I started to get pretty chilly. Then the crows flew back in. One crow in particular landed on a limb right in front of one of the hens & cawed in her face! That crow wouldn't leave her alone! It heckled the hen until she finally swatted at the crow. Those crows pester everything they can! Then at a little after 8:30, the rest of the hens finally flew down & worked up to the ridgetop giving me a chance to throw an extra shirt on & some mittens. I sat there for maybe a half hour warming up after they left. Then I packed up & snuck out of there. I froze my butt off, but it was a good morning in Ohio!!

Sunrise: 6:52 a.m

Temperature: 19 degrees

Wind: calm

Barometer: 30.28 & rising

Location: southeast Ohio

# of gobbles heard: 280+

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