Bitter roost

 The recent cold weather/snow has made it dang near impossible to film any roost segments.  But with most of the snow melted now, I decided to get out & give it a shot.  I watched some turkeys go to roost last night in a familiar spot!  So I crossed my fingers & hoped that I would be able to crawl underneath them this morning...

It was 27 degrees when I got out of the truck this morning at 4:15 am.  The wind was a little more stiff than what the forecast called for.  So to say the least, it was chilly!  There was still some snow on the ground in spots where the sun didn't hit & it sounded like I was walking on a bed of corn flakes!  I began to worry that I might not be able to get close to those birds.  But these birds were only roosted about eighty to a hundred yards inside the woods from the cow pasture that I was walking in.  There was a crunchy layer of snow along the wood line that prevented me from crossing the fence through a gate.  So I felt like a turkey myself as I pranced up & down the fence line trying to find a place to cross!  Eventually I made it over the fence & into the woods after "hopscotching" between snow patches through the plowed field.  I slowly inched my way through the frosty leaves & located some of the roosted birds in my binoculars.  I stood & surveyed the surrounding trees & could make out maybe a half dozen turkeys or so.  I planned my approach carefully because I didn't want to walk any farther than I absolutely needed to.  The moon was dark & I had to keep kneeling down & looking into the sky to see any limbs that might poke my eyes or brush against me.  I didn't want to ruin what I accomplished to that point.  My target was a cluster of seven birds in a large maple tree maybe fifty yards away.  The rest of the birds were on out the ridge another twenty to thirty yards.  I snuck like a cat & kept scanning the treetops with my binoculars, looking for a spoiler.  Luckily, I was able to get within fifteen to twenty yards of that cluster, got set up at the base of a large cherry tree & readied my camera gear by 6:00 am (a good forty-five minutes before first light)!

As daybreak approached, the sound of a gobbler strutting began.  A nearby cardinal broke the silence & a hen followed with a subtle, questioning tree yelp.  Then a few nearby gobblers joined in as the gobbler above me continued to strut.  Another hen muttered an under the breath tree call.  Then some gobbles on another ridge.  The lonesome moan of a distant train whistle was heard.  A wood duck whistled as it flew through the bottom...one of the nearby gobblers shocked a gobble at him.  Then some soft whines from a couple hens.  I could make out two longbeards in the same tree with about five hens.  Neither one of the gobblers said a word yet.  Every now & then, the wind would gust & blow the birds around on their limbs.  The distant birds continued to gobble.  But the two right above me remained quiet.  I zoomed in on the strutter as he paced back & forth on the limb, anxiously waiting for enough light to safely pitch down.  The soft tree yelps became more numerous with each passing minute.  The strutter turned around on the limb, shook his feathers & pitched right over top of me, landing somewhere behind me.  The other longbeard followed shortly after.  The amount of tree yelps increased as did the volume & anxiousness.  Those two longbeards behind me strutted around for the ladies.  Eventually, a hen crashed to the ground giving a beautiful fly-down cackle.  Then one by one, the others ensued.  Some quietly, others echoing their own unique cackles.  A few hens "whizzed" over top of me so close that I almost flinched!  Once the majority of the birds were on the ground behind me, I slowly turned my head to see them out of the corner of my right eye.  There were at least five full fans displaying & probably twenty or more hens within fifteen yards of me!  They slowly worked their way away from me & into the plowed field I walked through earlier this morning.  With some convincing plain yelps from one of the hens, the distant gobblers I heard eventually showed up in front of me.  There were at least five or six longbeards.  They looked to be two year olds, judging by the length of their spurs.  But there were some other hens down over the hill where they came from.  So they headed back down there after a few short minutes.  

It was bitter cold sitting under those birds!  But well worth it to me!

 

Sunrise:  7:14 a.m

 

Temperature:  23 degrees (clear & sunny)

 

Wind:  5 mph (gusts to 10 mph)

 

Barometer:  30.28 & rising

 

Location:  southwest Pennsylvania

 

# of gobbles heard:  80

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