"Henless" longbeards

I decided to try that roost site I visited three days ago.  The last time I was in there, I found a small, mixed flock roosted not too far from the edge of a cow pasture.  Those birds have been roosting in a different place almost every time I've been there this year.  So, I hoped I would be able to find them.  The sky was clear again & the moon was dark.  But it was very still & I knew I would have to be very careful if I happened to find some birds.  It's sometimes very hard to see those twigs & small bushes in your path as you sneak through the dark woods.  Most times, you don't see that stuff until they are within a few feet of your face.  When I reached the place they were roosted three days ago, I scanned the treetops but couldn't see them.  I double-checked real good, but they weren't in there today!  So I continued on up to the top of the ridge.  As I made my way back through the woods on the old logging road, I kept checking some of the bigger trees as I went.  I finally spotted what I thought was two birds roosted close together in a big red oak!  I scanned some of the surrounding trees searching for other birds, but didn't see any more.  I was at least sixty yards away.  So as I planned my approach, I looked through my binoculars again & noticed the one blob I thought was a turkey was actually a squirrel's nest.  But the other blob definitely was a turkey.  I moved in closer & as I did, I saw a few more birds roosted a little farther out that were roosted right off the edge of the ridge.  There were actually three birds roosted on the edge & the other one was maybe thirty yards behind them on the ridgetop.  I decided to walk past the one bird & get as close as I could to the three roosted off the edge.  I managed to sneak through the brush & get set up at the base of a big cherry tree within fifteen yards of the closest bird.  I got everything situated & hit the record button at 5:54 (17 minutes before twilight).  About a minute & a half later one of the three birds in front of me gobbled!  I'm pretty sure it was the one farthest to my right.  But as soon as it gobbled, the other bird closest to it gobbled right on top of it.  So I knew there was at least two gobblers.  I still couldn't see what the others were.  A few minutes later, a couple birds gobbled together across the hollow on another ridge.  From there, the gobbling intensified as daylight approached.  I could hear the song of a whippoorwill in the distance as well.  We don't seem to have many of those in this area.  So it's always a treat to hear them!  But I still hadn't identified the bird right above me & the one off my right shoulder.  I was hoping one of them would be a talkative hen.  But the more the two in front of me gobbled, both of the other birds jumped in with their telltale jake gobbles.  I hate to say it, but at that moment I was a little disappointed because I would much rather hear those hens than a bunch of gobbling!  But I was still going to enjoy the show.  The eastern sky began to turn orange & the distant birds gobbled just as well as the birds I was sitting under.  As a matter of fact, they probably gobbled better.  I could see the one bird that was doing most of the gobbling was a longbeard.  He eventually stood up & began to strut.  The gobbling picked up even more & I felt like I was witnessing a gobbling contest between the birds I was sitting under & the birds on the far ridge!  As soon as camera light allowed, I zoomed on the closest longbeard as he sat on the limb just hammering!  The limb he was perched on would shake every time he ran his neck out.  In between gobbles, he would stand his head up & look around as if he was listening so intently for something to gobble at.  His snood was hanging down over his beak as he sat there & the feathers on his back would ever so slightly fluff up.  The longbeard to the right gobbled & strutted constantly.  So I panned over to him in order to get some video of him.  When I got on him, I heard a hen on that far ridge open up with some excited yelps!  They double & triple gobbled at her!  It seemed like every bird around gobbled at her.  Then she went right into a fly down cackle.  The birds on that far ridge started to really hammer!  I panned back over to the other longbeard as he was still sitting on the limb & listening to all the commotion on that other ridge.  The birds I sat under continued to gobble their heads off as well!  Then it got kind of quiet for a little while on that far ridge.  The birds above me began to stretch & look around.  Pretty soon, the strutter pitched down & the rest followed shortly after.  They eventually moved off into the nearby pasture & gobbled sporadically allowing me to sneak out of there.  I think that is the first time I've sat under longbeards that didn't have hens roosted with them since I started filming roost sites this year.  So that may be good news for the upcoming turkey season!     

 

Sunrise:  6:39 a.m

 

Temperature:  42 degrees

 

Wind:  calm

 

Barometer:  30.26 & rising

 

Location:  southwest PA

 

# of gobbles heard:  100

 

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