It sounded almost like a breeze moving dead leaves on the tree branches, but I don’t remember there being any leaves on the early spring cottonwoods. As another wave of the fluttering sound reached my ears I realized the sound was not the trees or any leaves; it was a flock of turkeys rustling their feathers, and there must be a lot them to make that much noise at little after 4:00 am. A few minutes later the first yelps of the morning started. Apparently, Colorado turkeys wake up much earlier than those sleepy eastern birds in Wisconsin. Sure enough by 4:30 the first crescendo of gobbling cascaded down from their roosts, each like a wave crashing on a rocky beach. Each time the audio wave began it gained volume as if urging the sun to rise early. My shivering intensified, surprised I was that cold, then I became acutely aware it was maximum exhilaration that had no relationship to the temperature, this is what turkey nirvana is all about, like being drunk on wild turkey, the non-alcoholic kind.
Six years ago, on a now defunct turkey forum, Treerooster and charlie elk recognized each other as fellow turkey nerds. We discussed things like the length of the turkey’s memory, how they find food, the effect of ground temperatures on behavior, what the snood means, why two- dimensional sight works, techniques for tree-roosting all night with turkeys; OK you get the idea. Fortunately, the forum had a private message option allowing treerooster and charlie could make hunting plans. And when charlie got enough preference points to draw a spring license he was on his way to treerooster’s hunting turf in Colorado.
Our optimism was high we waded across the dark river back to the truck. We had roosted at least 15 toms and jakes on this eve of Colorado’s opening day of spring wild turkey season. Wake up was scheduled for 3:00 am to make sure we could take our place among the roosted turkeys well before sunrise. A treerooster nugget of wisdom – “Turkey hunting extends your life, each day of turkey hunting is the equivalent of 2 or 3 days of “normal life.”
There’s something about 15 or so roosted gobblers that make the lack of sleep and morning grogginess recede into the background of one’s conscious mind. Gazing up at a half dozen roosted turkeys highlighted against the moonlit sky I wanted to give treerooster
two thumbs up for his accuracy last night casting the correct GPS coordinates. Clearly, he has done this many times, and that is why I told him that I would hunt the way he hunts. And he is a one of a kind tree-roosting aficionado, sometimes he actually sleeps in the tree with the turkeys; Prefers to setup, not 200, 100 or even 50 yards from roosted birds, rather, right in the middle of them.
There was a certain surrealness sitting under roosted turkeys expecting the morning light to brighten and instead, it became quite dark after the moon set as we waited for the first glimmers of sunrise. However, the turkeys had no inhibition and continued to call and gobble to each other. They did not seem to care there were coyotes on the prowl, raccoons screaming out their mating calls; every sound caused all those anxious roosted birds to turn up the volume. Treerooster was supposed to do the calling but any calls we’d have made would be the equivalent of spitting in the ocean due to all the actual turkey noise.
Is there such a thing as sonic boom gobbling? Had anyone asked me this question before my first-morning hunt in Colorado I would have thought them crazy. But, not now. A couple of mallards came flying through the trees, and one of them quacked, this caused such loud gobbling that it caused the ducks so much turbulence they almost fell out of the air. Laughter would have erupted from me had my ears not hurt so bad, never before did I wish to turn down or remove my hearing aids on a turkey hunt. What had been 15 roosted gobblers was now apparently 50-70 raucous male turkeys surrounding us on all sides. In almost 40 years of turkey hunting, I have never experienced anything like this.
When the hens snuck up from behind on my five, I became concerned if I didn’t get a tom out this huge group I’d have egg on my face and some explaining to do. Hen turkeys are notorious for messing up a well-planned gobbler killing strategy. One of those hens got so close she could have rested her beak on my shoulder when she yelped. I swear I felt her spittle on my cheek. If she putted, no one here noticed and none of the turkeys noticed the deer that almost tripped over my boot. Thankfully, the deer did not notice me, perhaps due to all the ruckus from turkeys.
More gobblers flew down; it was quickly getting crowded here on the ground. Finally, the one who had strutted back and forth from one end of the limb to the other launched and sailed in. Lesser turkeys scrambled out of his way, for a brief moment he disappeared in the dawn’s light. As his head came around the other side of some wispy brush I made a quick check for any other turkeys in the area, the roar of the Benelli caused a literal explosion of turkey wings clawing at the air and every sound these large birds can make filled the woods and the surrounding grassland.
In almost forty years of turkey hunting, I’d never experienced anything like that Colorado morning. We ended the
hunt intoxicated by overdosing on a whole lot of wild turkey. The non-alcoholic kind.