Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turkey Scouting Morning

Our turkey hunting season starts next Saturday. We have been fortunate to obtain permission once again to hunt private land in the same area where we deer hunt in the fall. We are both hoping to get a turkey with bow & arrow this spring, but that will depend entirely on the weather and the turkeys. We spent some time out in the woods this morning trying to get a look at some turkeys and where they're roosting and also locating a nice level spot to place our blind. Mr. Johnson thinks he's got it pretty well figured out and here's the view we'll be seeing out of our blind next weekend.

The turkeys roost in the large white pines above this ravine. We heard a couple fly down this morning, but it seems they always head towards the river bottom and some pasture land before heading back up this hill and then out to unplowed cornfield that's behind this spot. We both agreed this morning that turkeys are so much harder to hunt than deer. Deer have pretty nice, predictable habits that they follow almost every day. Turkeys don't--especially in the spring when it's mating season. We'll just have to wait and see how things go, I guess. At least for now, the weather report sounds good for next weekend (no rain and temps in the upper 50's).

It was really foggy early this morning (as you can see from the picture above). Here's what it looked like walking across the cornfield towards the woods where our turkey blind will be.

Here's another foggy picture (just because I thought this little white pine has a beautiful shape and provided a little spot of green in a gray/brown landscape!)

At the edge of the woods, I just happened to catch some movement of a little bird low to the ground. I was able to focus my binocs and camera on this Song Sparrow. Isn't its camouflage wonderful?

We took the long way home by way of Mom & Dad's to pick up the milk cartons Dad's schoolkids had saved for me last week (for my veggie seedling transplants). Part of this route runs along a river and that's where I spotted a pair of kingfishers. Here's the one who was sitting on a fencepost closest to the road. I really enjoy seeing these birds.
Also on the power lines above the river, there was a small flock of Cliff Swallows. There is a concrete bridge over this river where they have nested in the past. The next time I'm down this way, I'll try to get some pictures of the neat little mud nests the swallows have built along the underside of this bridge. I'm sure they would have been much more active on a warm, sunny day than this cool, foggy morning.

On our way home, we finally spotted some turkeys: a big group of toms displaying for the hens. Mr. Johnson quickly turned the car around so we could go back and take a look at this show. I was able to capture this short video before the group dispersed.

There are two large toms in the foreground--they have the long beards showing. In the background, together are two "jakes" (the first year toms). You can tell a jake from a tom most easily by their tails. Look closely at those two birds in the background and you will see the center (8 or so) tail feathers stick up farther in the center of their tail "fan". On a mature tom, their tail looks just like a "fan" where all the feathers are the same length. When we're out hunting, what we're looking for is the "beard" that comes out of the center of the turkey's chest (only birds with a visible beard are legal for shooting in the spring). Ideally we'd like to get a big old, heavy tom with a long beard and big tail (and more meat for eating), but seeing as how we have the challenge of going with bow & arrow this year, we will be happy to take any legal bird. And maybe if the turkeys don't cooperate, I'll have a little time to check out the forest edges for migrating spring warblers and sparrows.


Trixie said...

So funny! The hens look terribly disinterested.

Why only bow and arrow this year? Did your rules change or is that a choice you and Mr. J are making?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Gosh Ruthie, you made me hungry just talking about these turkeys. More people need to be eating them. They are about to take over the woods around here. I have seen huge flocks of them. Do you ever do anything with the feathers?

RuthieJ said...

Hi Trixie,
I laugh too, because the hens almost always behave that way. And with big toms like that, the jakes just hang in the background and imitate the toms and neither hens or toms PAY ANY ATTENTION to those jakes.
Bow & arrow is a much greater challenge. It's very easy to shoot them with a gun--as far away as 35 yards. With a bow we have to be able to call them as close as 10-12 yards for a good, clean shot. It just makes us work a little bit harder and there will be a greater feeling of accomplishment if we're lucky. Each season is only 5 days, so it won't be easy.

Hi Lisa,
They are really good to eat!
I have mounted a couple of tails & beards, but other than that I haven't done anything with the feathers. I usually save a few because they are just so beautiful. Let me know if you want any and I'll send you some if we get a turkey this year.

Mary said...


I got a chuckle from that video, too. Big old Toms must be frustrated with aloof females! Does an arrow kill them as quickly as a gunshot? I'm not familiar with hunting...

I hope you and Mr. Johnson have a great time next weekend and get your turkey. Be sure to have your camera round your neck.


RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
A well-placed arrow should kill them as quickly as a gunshot. With an arrow, we aim for the vitals (an area about the size of a softball--that's why we have to practice so much and the turkey has to be close). With a shotgun, you just aim for the head.

The main reason why I prefer bowhunting over shotgun hunting is this tragic story we saw on the news yesterday afternoon about a father who shot and killed his son while turkey hunting:
I have never heard of an incident where a bowhunter shot and killed another hunter. When you're bowhunting, you absolutely have to see and identify your target. Most gun/hunting accidents occur when a hunter is shooting at a noise or shape they think is their target. The other problem during turkey season is that we're wearing all camouflage (not orange like during deer gun hunting season).
There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with being a good hunter, not just for yourself and the game you are hunting, but for all other hunters, landowners, and citizens you encounter.
(ok, I'm hopping down off the soapbox now..... :-)

me and my camera said...

I've never seen Wild Turkeys and find the subject fascinating; and I enjoyed the video very much. Good luck on your turkey hunt. I just enjoy reading of your further adventures.

Kingfisher's are a favourite of mine too and I know of the location where one has a tunneled nesting spot in the riverbank nearby. I'm hoping I can get some pictures of it this season; but they are so fast, and noisy too, when I see them and they see me at the same time.

April said...

I love the misty woods. That's a great photo of the Kingfisher - they are the neatest birds. I don't know too much about Wild Turkeys either and enjoyed your video and learning about them through your post.

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

The wild turkeys have been visiting our back yard recently. It's very intresting to hear them call through the woods. They don't look like much to eat though.

I haven't seen anything with a "beard."

Robin at Bumblebee

Marsha said...

Great post and good luck with the hunt. Did you here the news last night re: the father & his 9yo son? Please be safe out there.

RuthieJ said...

Hi M&MC,
Turkeys were re-introduced to Minnesota in the 1980's. The DNR is continuing to place birds farther and farther north and if they can survive the winters and find enough food, the turkeys flocks will continue to grow on their own.
The kingfisher is one of my favorite birds too. Their rattling call and distinctive shape make them easy to identify and fun to watch.

Hi April,
Wild turkeys are fun to watch even when it's not hunting season, and easy to spot because they're such a huge bird. In some suburban neighborhoods they have become quite a nuisance--huge flocks at bird feeders and terrorizing school kids at the bus stops!

Hi Robin,
What do Sophie & Sarah do when they see the turkeys?
A large tom can weigh around 22-26 lbs, and about half of that weight is what you will have for eating. They're a bit smaller than a Butterball, but it's the best tasting turkey you will ever eat!

Hi Marsha,
I was shocked when I heard that news on channel 4 last night. Tragic doesn't even begin to describe it. My heart goes out to that family.

Jennifer said...

I absolutely LOVE that first foggy forest shot! Beautiful!!!

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Jennifer. I love how it turned out too, so much, in fact that it's now my desktop wallpaper and looks even better on the "big screen."
P.S. I kept my eyes on the ground yesterday, but didn't see any signs of new growth or wildflowers yet--some buds are just starting to show up on the trees.

Mary said...


OH, my. That story...

Jump on your soapbox anytime you like. I learn from you. Bowhunting is safer for all.


Susan Gets Native said...

Go, Ruthie!
I personally love bow season more than rifle, because bows are nice and quiet. And I like to tease my brother (the Great White Hunter of the family) that it gives the animals a sporting chance.
But how in the Hell can a person get within 10-12 yards of a turkey? They have like ESP or something.

; )

Hedgewitch said...

love the kingfisher photo!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
That story is so sad, isn't it? I would hate to be that dad.

Hi Susan,
We're in a big blind for turkey hunting. Their eyesight is too keen and bowhunting requires too much movement, so the only way you can have a chance is by using a blind.
How about some smoked, barbecued shredded turkey on a bun instead??

Hi Steph,
Thank you. He sure is a handsome bird, isn't he?

mon@rch said...

This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing with us and found the video great also!

Windyridge said...

Our youth weekend hunt is this weekend. My husband and one of my son’s are going out with a guy who is a really good caller. Then I will be going out when the regular season starts next week. I just go right across the street here. They pretty much roost in the same spot, take the same path down and into the woods and then back up again. I heard a gobble a few days ago too. My son has the diaphragm call down very well. I use the slate. I can’t master that thing in my mouth at all.