Lily-livered longbeards!


It was another warm, cloudy morning as I made my way back to one of my favorite roost sites. I climbed the ridge & checked some "second fiddle" roost trees on my way to the top...nothing. Then as I neared some of the more "traditional" roost trees, I saw a few blobs in my binoculars from about eighty yards! Instead of heading directly towards them, I continued sneaking along the old logging trail so it would be a little more quiet walking. Plus, I wanted to look at some other big trees they like to use to roost in a little farther out the ridge. After tip-toeing another fifty to sixty yards, I could see some more birds roosted right along the logging trail! So I decided to try & get under those ones. Best I could tell, most of the birds were still sitting down on the limb & my approach had so far been undetected! The easiest birds to get closest to were roosted along the logging trail at the breakline, right where the ridge dropped off. I was fortunate to get within twenty yards of one bird & didn't dare attempt getting any closer because I would have had to start dropping down off the edge, which would make the upward angle more difficult for the camera. So I picked a large cherry tree to set up in front of & eased over to it. I managed to get set up & ready to go just in time really. By the time I hit the record button, it was 6:29 (only thirty-seven minutes before sunrise)! I could tell one of the birds in front of me was a jake & another off to my left was likely a gobbler as well because I could hear him strutting. Then several birds began spitting as they strutted on the limbs. At one point though, I thought I heard a short, two-note tree yelp from a hen off to my left! I picked my binoculars up to check out the bird closest to me & could then tell it was a longbeard. As the songbirds began to pick up, the sounds of gobblers spitting as they strutted became more numerous. I could count thirteen birds & it seemed like the majority of them were gobblers! As daylight approached, a few birds gave some short two & three note yelps that had jake/gobbler tones to them. But for the most part, the only sounds were that of strutting & a little gobbling from time to time. When I had enough camera light, I zoomed in on one of the longbeards in front of me as he strutted non-stop. A crow cawed in the distance & a bird gobbled way off on a far ridge, which shocked all the birds above me into gobbling as well. As daylight approached, a hen off to my left finally gave a few soft, higher pitched tree yelps. Pretty soon, one of the jakes off to my right pitched down & landed not five yards to my left! Then another jake. Then another. Immediately fighting purrs erupted & a couple more jakes pitched down into my lap! They all started fighting right beside me off camera as I filmed the longbeard strutting & watching from above. All the jakes settled down & began to move off behind me with, from what I could tell, a lone hen. The two longbeards sat on the limb like they didn't want to get involved with those jakes at all! As a matter of fact, all the jake birds moved off with that hen & those two gobblers stayed in the tree just strutting for a good twelve minutes before one of them pitched down! Best I could tell, they didn't want to get ganged up on by all those jakes. The last remaining longbeard stayed in the tree even longer just looking around & yelping real soft. Eventually he pitched down & went a different direction than the rest of the birds did. The funny thing is, both those longbeards looked to have some pretty good spurs! But I stuck around for a while & let them get away from me before sneaking out the back door. I have a feeling, this spring you're going to see a lot of that. There seems to have been a really good hatch last year & there's just a pile of jakes everywhere I've been!

Sunrise: 7:06 a.m

Temperature: 46 degrees

Wind: calm

Barometer: 30.14 & rising

Location: southwest Pennsylvania

# of gobbles heard: 75

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