Almost too late!
It was very warm as I made my second trip of the season to this particular roost site this morning. But when I arrived at the steep sidehill where the birds generally like to roost, I couldn't find any turkeys! I assumed they were roosted on another hillside off the inside corner of a field. That roost site was a quarter of a mile from where I now stood & I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time to make it there before daybreak. I thought about it for a second & decided to run over there & check it. So I hoofed it down off the ridge, across the road & up the other side! When I got over there, I started scanning some of the treetops with my binoculars & found them right away! As a matter of fact, just as I started scanning, a jake popped off an excited yelp from just inside the corner of the woods. I quickly tip-toed as quietly as possible down the wood line & best I could tell, there were at least twenty three birds roosted within eighty yards of this inside corner! One bird in particular was roosted in the tree I wanted to set up at! So I had to quickly get there & set up my camera gear without spooking the bird directly over top of me (not an easy task)! Long story short, I was able to crawl the last five yards or so & get into position without too much trouble & just in the nick of time! It was 6:19 when I hit the record button on my camera & the birds were just beginning to talk. I could hear at least two or three birds strutting as I sat there quietly listening. At first, the only sounds to be heard (other than strutting) were the soft, but excited jake yelps. From time to time, spring peepers down near the creek bottom would break the silence along with the distant hum of a train. The birds stayed quiet for a little while & I actually dozed off while sitting there! But when one of the jakes cranked up the volume with another telltale excited yelp, I woke up right away! Pretty soon a few other jakes jumped in with some squawky yelps. Then a deer began snorting off to my right. But that didn't bother those birds at all! They kept right on talking. I kept hoping the bird directly over my head wouldn't drop a bomb on me! There was another bird (which looked to be a hen) still sitting on the limb maybe fifteen yards in front of me. The majority of the turkeys were spread out about a hundred and thirty degrees in front of me & were just about eye level because of the steep drop-off. Then the gobbling started! It was a mix of full roll gobbles, calking & shortened half-gobbles. As daylight began it's appearance, mallards could be heard in the distance, which provoked some shock gobbles. The occasional whistling of wood ducks could be heard as they flew up the creek. Eventually, some hens began clucking back & forth, which really set the gobblers off! A distant group of crows jumped in & gobbling became almost annoying! I zoomed in on the hen right in front of me as she sat looking around. The jakes continued to cut the hens off until eventually, one bird after another began pitching down (mostly jakes & longbeards). The hen talk picked up & was a lot less interrupted after the gobblers were on the ground! It was a pleasure to listen to!! Yelping of all kinds, cutting & cackling filled the morning air. Once they were all on the ground, the group as a whole moved off to my right heading up the ridge. Then all of a sudden (at 50 yards or so), a few birds began alarm putting! I slowly peered out of the corner of my eye & saw a red fox rush the group & scatter them! One longbeard in particular had to take flight to get away from the sly critter! The fox just kept on moving through & eventually, they all settled back down & moved off & out of sight. I gave them about 20 minutes or so & snuck out of there. It was a great morning in the turkey woods!
Sunrise: 7:03 a.m
Temperature: 60 degrees (mostly cloudy)
Wind: 5 mph
Barometer: 30.11 & rising
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 200+