Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The beauty of today’s spectacular sunrise was enhanced even further by the rattling gobble of a nearby tom. This morning, I had decided to visit a stand of oaks located about three miles from where I did yesterday’s morning turkey shoot. Although official sunrise was still 45 minutes away, a single bird was already sounding off with pleasing regularity. The dim lighting continued to increase until I could see the shadowy form of the tom strutting on a limb.
Pretty soon, I spotted an additional pair of hens. The tom flew down about a half hour later and, upon touching down, really lit up the woodlot as he called to the hens. They flew down shortly and joined him on the forest floor.
A couple of minutes later I heard, but couldn’t see, two more birds come out of the trees. I cranked up the calling and, four or five minutes later, I could see the tom coming my way. Although the understory was thick and the lighting still poor, I began to take a few shots. Suddenly, I could see the white, snowball head of a second mature tom come from behind the trunk of a massive oak — obviously one of the two silent birds I had heard come off the limb.
As I kept shooting, an unexpected white-tailed deer made its appearance. The deer kept coming and soon began to aggressively haze the gobblers. The white-tail would bump one of the toms with her nose, and the gobbler would immediately fold up and move away. Pretty soon, the turkey would began strutting again and the deer would come over to push it again. This happened a half dozen times or so, and I was afraid the deer would drive the birds off. I couldn’t scare her without scaring everything else. Finally the deer tired of the game and walked off.
Things calmed down again and the party resumed. Although the second tom remained silent, the dominant gobbler and hens began readily answering the call; and life was good. Four more deer showed up and, although they walked between me and the morning gathering of turkeys, they more or less ignored the birds. The turkeys continued to scratch around until the sun finally appeared above the horizon. The magnificent birds were soon standing in full sunlight. The show continued until the hens eventually led the gobblers over the ridge and out of sight. From darkness to sunlight, start to finish, the episode had lasted for nearly 100 minutes — can’t think of a better way to kick start an April