Sluggish sidehill

March 26, 2017

 

I decided to hit a different roost site & was fortunate to put some birds to bed last night.  I saw a jake pecking around at the edge of a hay field as well as a couple other birds that I couldn't identify just before dark.  I heard a handful of them pitch up into the trees not long after I lost sight of them.  They roosted about eighty yards off the edge of the field on a steep wooded sidehill.  I debated whether I should come in from above or approach from the downhill side.  It's always a little more difficult coming in from above because there's a chance they could silhouette you.  Plus, it's harder to spot them as you look downward into the treetops.  When you approach from underneath, it's a little easier to pick them out because you have the sky as a backdrop.  After some thought, I decided to come in from above because it was a much shorter distance to walk in the dry leaves.  It was warm for the end of March & fairly calm as I started my descent through the dry leaves.  I was able to find six birds & sneak to within ten yards of the closest turkey (all of which were still sitting on the limb) without incident!  I slowly readied my camera gear & was set up by 5:45 (an hour and 25 minutes before sunrise).  As I sat there, I couldn't help but wonder if I was sitting under 6 jakes.  I would much rather sit under hens.  But from what I could tell, those six were the only birds that were roosted here.  As I sat there in the darkness anticipating the morning's action, the distant sounds of Canada geese honking in a nearby stream could be heard.  From time to time, the whistle of wood duck broke the silence.  Then the wind began to gust a little as daybreak neared.  It was pretty steady for a while as the turkeys swayed back & forth on the limb!  I figured they wouldn't talk much with all the wind.  But it laid down a little as darkness turned gray.  Pretty soon, the cardinals began to sing.  The treetops quit swaying as much & a distant gobble rang out!  The birds above me began to shake off & wake up.  Then, a few minutes later, a few soft clucks.  Droppings hit the leaves on the steep hillside below me.  The gobbler in the distance continued to gobble sporadically on his own & at the geese honking.  Then the bird closest to me gave a few deep, muffled tree yelps..."jake" I thought!  I just hoped the rest weren't gobblers too.  A few more "jakey" tree yelps as I zoomed in on one of the other birds.  Then some higher pitched tree yelps from a hen!  That provoked one of the others to do some soft clucking & even a few whines!!  The jake continued to mutter his best tree yelps as the sky brightened more with each minute.  One of the hens I was zoomed in on stood up.  A few more hens jumped in with some soft tree yelps.  The excitement escalated with a few more yelps.  Then one by one, all but one pitched out, flying over my head & landing on the hillside behind me.  The remaining hen in the tree started in with some louder plain yelps before eventually pitching over top of me as well.  Once she was on the ground she did a few louder "searching" clucks & yelps before eventually finding the rest of the flock & heading up over the hill away from me into a hay field.  They were a little sluggish this morning & didn't talk a whole lot.  But it was still a great morning in the timber capturing birds on the limb!

 

Sunrise:  7:10 a.m

 

Temperature:  59 degrees (cloudy)

 

Wind:  5 mph (gusts to 15 mph)

 

Barometer:  30.11 & steady

 

Location:  southwest Pennsylvania

 

# of gobbles heard:  7

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