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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Virginia Gobblers Uncooperative, but Songbirds Are Returning (Blog 388)

I continued to struggle while turkey hunting this week. I have now been out seven times either on weekends or before school and have not yet seen a gobbler except for one that was about 100 yards away. The typical outing goes like the following: hear toms on the roost, they gobble a little, then they depart with their hens for parts unknown.

The songbird watching and listening has been great, though.  Whip-poor-wills and chuck-wills-widows returned this week as did scarlet tanagers, worm-eating warblers, and ovenbirds. Fascinatingly, a worm-eating warbler came within about five yards of me, and I watched it hopping about the forest floor looking for bugs.

The turkey hunting should improve soon, once more hens go to lay their eggs.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring Gobbler Opening day in Virginia (Blog 387)

Opening day in Virginia was today, and it was very uneventful for me. With brisk winds, warm weather, and humidity, I was not optimistic there would be much gobbling on the Franklin County farm I was afield on.

Unfortunately, I was correct in my predictions on how the day would be. I didn't hear my first gobble until 9:15, and it was in response to a crow call. I only heard two more the rest of the day, one in answer to the crow call and a random gobble in mid-morning.

Disappointed for sure, but I'm not depressed about it. Sooner or later, the birds will turn on, and then the excitement will begin.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Setting Up too Close to a Tennessee Gobbler (Blog 386)

This past Saturday, I was in Northeast Tennessee to hunt opening day of that state's spring gobbler season. I was afield with Larry Proffitt, my long time turkey hunting mentor and friend, of Elizabethton. Larry and I climbed a Sullivan County mountain in the dark, and while we were waiting for dawn, a gobbler began sounding off directly behind us.

Larry motioned for me to slowly scoot around to the other side of the tree, which I did. A while later, I was able to make out the tom in a tree about 50 yards from us. Larry had been making pitting sounds before the tom gobbled, which perhaps made the old boy start up.

Anyway, I felt doom was at hand when I saw that the gobbler was so close. Every time except one during my 32 years of spring gobbler hunting when I have, by chance, set up in the dark within sight of a roosted gobbler, the hunt had turned out badly.

This hunt, too, ended in failure as when dawn came, the tom pitched down and quickly rambled away out of shooting range. All I could do was watch him flee. Is there such a thing as being too close to a roosted tom? I think so.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gobblers in Virginia Begin Anew (Blog 385)

A blast of cold air and two snowfalls shut down all gobbling here in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, that is, all gobbling except for one lone tom. In the midst of a driving wind and precipitation, that old boy was gobbling.

That is the type of bird that I would like to hunt on opening day - one gobbling in the wind and snow. That kind of tom will invariably come charging in.

Still, he was the only one to sound off for the entire week until the warm front came through this morning. Predictably, a gobbler on the eastern side of our property greeted the dawn and was so boisterous that both my son-in-law David and I both heard him. Opening day is just two weeks distant.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Chickens in the Snow (Blog 384)

At 2:45 this morning, I woke up, looked out the window and saw snow falling, and knew what I had to do. Earlier this month, we had a wet, slushy snow, and the netting covering our two chicken runs collapsed, leaving our heritage Rhode Island Reds vulnerable to an owl or hawk attack.

Elaine and I spent an hour or so repairing the damage then. I figured it was better to arise in the wee hours than wait until dawn and try to repair the net. When I arrived inside the two runs, the netting was already badly sagging, so I as delicately as possible tapped the bottom of the netting with a broom to cause snow to cascade through the openings.

I'll go outside at dawn to do the broom tapping gambit again. I expect more such visits will be required during what appears will be a long, snow-filled day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gobbling Intensity Increasing in Southwest Virginia (Blog 383)

What a difference a week makes here in Southwest Virginia in terms of gobbling intensity. Two weeks ago, a lone gobble every few mornings was the norm. Now, the "normal" progression of spring morning sounds is evident.

For example, this morning, the crows, as is typical in spring, were the first birds to really announce the dawn in a boisterous way. This seemed to wake up two gobblers behind my house, and they began gobbling every 45 or so seconds. I also noted that the two toms were on opposite side of our 38 acres in Botetourt County, perhaps because they have already endured several skirmishes with each other.

What I expect to happen next - perhaps in just a few days - is an outbreak of non-stop gobbling as one longbeard becomes consumed with the prospects of mating, which, in turn, sets several other gobblers off.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Woodcock Mating Season in Full Throttle in Southwest Virginia (Blog 382)

This morning at 5:45, I left our Botetourt County, Virginia house to walk and almost immediately heard the sounds of a male woodcock doing his mating aerial dance.  Soon afterwards, I heard another woodcock while I was walking up the driveway.  And about 100 yards into my walk, a third one was heard.

Next to hearing the sounds of gobblers in early spring, I love to hear the whistling and peents of woodcocks. Adding to the morning aura was snow flakes falling.  In the distance, it seemed like the surrounding mountains were enveloped in snow as well. The forecast is for snow at dawn on Monday.  I wonder if the woodcocks will persist in their mating rituals if snow falls?