Landing strip

It was cloudy this morning as I made my way in to a Pennsylvania roost site for the first time this year. I was excited because I watched a mixed group of birds peck around in a nearby pasture just before sundown last night. I knew they wouldn't roost far from where I saw them.

The ground was still saturated from the recent rains, so it made the walking a little more quiet. When I reached the ridgetop this morning, it didn't take long to find some birds! The more I scanned the treetops with binoculars, I could tell they were spread out 180 degrees in front of me. I picked the easiest ones to sneak underneath & began my slow approach. It was at least two hours before sunrise when I found them. But by the time I found a tree to set up at, threw on some extra clothes & got my camera gear set up, there was only an hour left. I could hear droppings hitting the ground all around me as I got ready to go! Pretty soon, I could hear a bird spitting as he strutted. Then a subtle, two note yelp (which sounded like a jake). Droppings continued to hit the floor all around me & the only other sounds to be heard were the spitting of that one gobbler & feathers ruffling as a few turkeys shook themselves off. It was probably close to ten minutes before a bird gobbled. A jake followed with a half-hearted gobble of his own followed by a few yelps. Maybe another five minutes went by before a hen jumped in with some soft, fast-paced tree yelps. That jump started the rest & the soft tree calls surrounded me! The sounds of strutting became more numerous as other gobblers began to blow up. As the songbirds began to greet the day, a few jakes got excited & started in with some deep, whiny yelps & that set off some gobbling! Sporadically, the hens began yelping with more excitement & the gobbling increased. I zoomed in on a longbeard in front of me once I had enough camera light as it strutted on a calf-sized limb about thirty feet above the ground. The turkey talk was almost non-stop at that point & as the ground became more well lit, a bird behind me pitched down. Then several others followed suit. A few of the birds landed so close to me that I felt the wind from their wings flapping! Pretty soon, I had roughly thirty birds on the ground all around me. Some of them as close as four or five yards! Gobbler yelps, jake yelps, fighting purrs & wingbeats filled the air all around me! I was surrounded by birds & had a smile from ear to ear! One longbeard strutted back & forth at no more than ten yards in front of me. A gaggle of jakes sorted out their rank in the pecking order twenty yards to my right. A couple young hens preened over my right shoulder at six or seven yards. Some more jakes were over my left shoulder strutting around. A couple more hens pitched down & almost landed on me! I felt invisible!! It was fantastic! The strutter in front of me had had a good set of spurs too! Eventually, they all settled down & slowly worked their way into a pasture & allowed me to slip out the back door. What a morning!!

Sunrise: 7:20 a.m

Temperature: 35 degrees

Wind: calm

Barometer: 30.24 & falling

Location: southwest Pennsylvania

# of gobbles heard: 200

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