After visiting a roost site yesterday in Ohio & coming up empty handed, I decided to try another close to home this morning. The last time I was in this particular roost, I couldn't find any birds. So I was hoping I would have some luck. Also, I recently purchased another microphone in order to record in "true" stereo sound. So to say the least, I was looking forward to it. The skies were very cloudy & the temperature was in the mid 30's. But the ground was still saturated from all the rain & snow lately. This roost site is situated on a steep, wooded sidehill overlooking a stream. It's a little easier to approach from the field above. But probably more effective to come in from the woods below because you can better skyline the birds as you look up into the trees. I was a little later than I wanted to be, so I decided to approach it from above. As soon as I arrived at the inside corner of the field, I noticed a blob in one of the trees not thirty yards inside the woods! I picked up my binoculars & noticed another just downhill & to the right of it as well. They were both facing away from me & sitting on the limbs with their heads tucked. I thought about sitting on the wood line 45 degrees across the corner from them & putting my microphones in the field, thinking they would probably pitch down directly into the field. But I wanted to get closer. So I pushed the envelope & made my way towards the woods. Then a bird gobbled across the stream on another ridge! It was at least an hour & a half before daybreak! As soon as I stepped in the leaves, the closest bird stood up! I thought "uh oh!" I froze with one foot in the air like a deer in the headlights. I picked up my binoculars & noticed it was a longbeard. He must have just wanted to stretch his legs because he sat back down shortly after. I scanned the nearby trees & noticed another bird downhill from him maybe twenty five yards or so. But I couldn't identify it. So I gave him a minute & continued my cat-like approach. If you've spent any amount of time around farm fields, you know what the edges can sometimes be like. A lot of times, they are littered with brush & briars. So I had to carefully get through that edge with very little noise. Luckily, I was able to do that! I only had to walk about twenty yards through sticks & leaves to get to the tree I wanted to set up at. But I had a lot of work to do in order to get all my camera gear ready, all without alerting the roosted birds & racing the sun as well! To make a long story short, I was fortunate to get my microphones out, my camera on the tripod & set up, & ready to go with just enough time before gray light. It wasn't long & the thud of droppings hitting the forest floor could be heard! Then the unmistakeable sound of gobblers strutting on the limb. I hoped there were some hens down over the hill! A dog barked at a nearby house & it "shocked" a response from at least three different gobblers! A domino effect out the hillside as well as others coughed out. Then the tiniest, little single note yelp from a hen! I thought "YES!! There IS a hen here!" Sure enough, a few seconds later a four note tree yelp! GOBBLE! Then another hen stepped in with a little more excitement as she stretched! Then some purrs from another hen & even a few whines! I was smiling underneath my facemask. Some canada geese honked nearby & it shocked a response from a few of the gobblers. One "scratchy" hen in particular sounded awfully familiar to me, as I'm sure I've recorded her in years past! The spitting & drumming continued, along with gobbling, wing stretching, yelping from a few different hens & even a few gobbler yelps. I still could only make out five birds. Three of them were longbeards, one jake & the other one I believed to be a hen. But the one hen doing most of the yelping was downhill far enough that I still couldn't see her, because I wasn't able to silhouette her. It sounded like there were at least three or four hens going back & forth. Once I had enough camera light, I zoomed in on one of the strutters above me that happened to be a jake. The conversation continued and eventually, the gobblers pitched down onto the bench below. The intensity of the yelping increased as the gobblers danced & pirouetted underneath the roosted hens. A few of the distant gobblers hammered! Pretty soon, one hen cackled as she dropped out of the tree & the others soon followed. Once on the ground, that scratchy hen yelped with such an inconsistent cadence, emphasizing some notes more than others as though she was walking. I lost sight of them for a while down there. But after a while, they all climbed back up the sidehill to my right, angling up towards the field above me & out of sight. That one hen continued with her "walking yelps" drawing in a couple jakes off to my left. But they kept their distance & eventually walked off as well. After some time, I gathered up my microphones, the rest of my camera gear & snuck out of there. But it was a pretty good morning spent listening to some turkey talk in stereo!
Sunrise: 6:53 a.m
Temperature: 35 degrees (cloudy)
Barometer: 29.95 & falling
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 200+