I watched some birds fly up last night. So I knew pretty much where I wanted to be this morning. The temperature was twenty seven degrees when I got out of the truck & started my morning trek. A light frost covered the ground & had me a little concerned. The sky was mostly cloudy, which covered the waning crescent moon for the most part. I made my way across a small stream, over a barbed wire fence & up through a cow pasture. Once I reached the ridgetop & started into the woods, I heard a deer bounce off through the crunchy leaves. I stopped so I could listen for it to move off. But it stood there & began snorting! Then a raccoon scampered away & up a large cherry tree. It was clinging to the side of the tree about thirty feet up making the funniest sound I think I've heard a coon make! It reminded me of Curly from the three stooges (woob, woob, woob)! I don't know if the raccoon was mad at me for intruding or just alarmed. But it kept making that sound. That deer continued snorting too, but eventually moved off, rattling the barbed wire fence as it jumped over it. I scanned the treetops with my binoculars & found a few birds about eighty yards away right off the edge of the ridgetop in a couple large maple trees! So I started my approach, hoping the raccoon & deer didn't already blow my cover. As I snuck closer to the roosted birds, I noticed seven of them roosted within twenty yards of each other. There were two more birds out towards the point a little farther south. I decided to try for the cluster in front of me. I really had to take my time, as the leaves were a little noisy. But I managed to somehow creep within twenty five yards of them! I got my microphones out, my camera mounted on the tripod, added another layer of clothing & got set up just in time! The forest floor was just beginning to show details when I hit the record button. It wasn't long & the gobbling began over my right shoulder, behind me maybe eighty yards! Then a handful of birds gobbled across the hollow on another ridge. One of the birds in front of me stretched it's wings. The gobbling continued, almost non-stop! I could hear a bird strutting to my right, but couldn't see it. Then a muted, under-the-breath tree yelp from the cluster in front of me! A few minutes & at least fifty gobbles later, another hen yelp. This time with some excitement! More gobbling. The eastern sky began to brighten as I zoomed in on what I suspected was a hen. The bird was standing & preening it's feathers. Then it stretched one of it's legs out behind it & continued preening. Some more very light hen yelps from a few other birds in front of me! The gobbling picked up on the other ridge as the hen yelps became more frequent. Then a bugling jake yelp on the far ridge. Then things settled down for a bit. The gobbler that was doing all the strutting eventually pitched down to my right underneath the edge. Some more tree yelps from a few of the hens. The birds behind me gobbled again & I could tell they were on the ground now as well. Most of the birds in front of me appeared to be hens & looked to be in no hurry to pitch down, except for one bird farthest to my left. It was a longbeard that hadn't made a sound yet! He hadn't even strutted. Then another bird crashed to the ground to my right. One of the hens in front of me opened up with a few resonant series of yelps! Eventually, the quiet gobbler to my left dropped out of the tree as the gobblers behind me closed the distance (judging by the thump in their chest when they gobbled). He began strutting about fifteen yards to my left as the hens above me continued to preen their feathers & softly yelp from time to time. The gobbler to my left dropped down off the edge & the other gobblers behind me sounded like they moved off with a couple hens as well. Then a high & clear sounding hen above me opened up with some beautiful yelps! Then right into a cackle as she pitched to my right. The excitement built even more as the resonant hen jumped in again. Another high & clean yelp from a hen to my right. One after another, the hens started to come down. Eventually, all but four hens were on the ground & it got sort of quiet for a bit. The four hens above me were all sitting & preening for some time. Once one of them decided to fly down, the rest weren't far behind. But there were some absolutely beautiful sounding hens in that last group! It really was a morning concert! I wouldn't trade mornings like that for a dead longbeard (on video)!!
Sunrise: 6:50 a.m
Temperature: 27 degrees (cloudy to partly cloudy)
Barometer: 29.97 & rising
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 300+