The gurgling-like chuckle came from my right, and I peered through the three-inch diameter window in my blind. My index finger pulled the fabric one way, then another, so I could see more. There, not much more than one hundred feet away, were two wild turkeys pecking at something along the small brook. I’d been seeing many tracks in the snow since visiting my sister in Western Pennsylvania a week ago, but these were my first close look at a living bird.
I’d been spreading seeds around a stump each day to attract birds. The location was several hundred yards down from the barn in a black walnut grove and near the spring. I’d only just set the blind up early that morning and had brought only the 800 mm to the blind. If the turkeys came to the feed, at best, I could do a headshot and maybe some closeups of their feathers.
The birds continued to give quiet chucks; they knew I was there and were nervous. When I was growing up fifty-sixty years ago, we had no wild turkeys on the farm. Overhunting had exterminated them from Pennsylvania, but the state had started a program to reintroduce them. So, in high school, my buddies and I would go to a park twenty miles from here to see if we might see one of those released birds. In the last thirty years, though, they have become abundant around the farm and all across Pennsylvania. It is one of the conservation success stories of the last half-century.
The two birds walked behind the black walnut to my right and began to cross the opening toward the stump. Their gait slowed, and their heads went back and forth. Nope, it was too much, and they turned around, heading down the hill away from me. I began to lean back and forth, looking out the small side window and the front one where my lens protruded. Over by the lane, six more turkeys were coming my way.
This flock didn’t come by way of the spring but instead dropped into the ravine down the hill and walked up toward me. They stopped and began milling around as soon as they came out of the gully. They, too, had detected me and were coming no further. The group conferred for several minutes before backtracking to the lane and heading into the sidehill pasture.
I gave the birds another five minutes before opening the back door on my blind and crawling out. A larger flock of twenty to thirty turkeys walked along the hill’s crest. The group moved right until they noticed me standing several hundred yards from them. Now joined by the birds that had come to visit, the flock turned around, heading north and walking more rapidly, eventually disappearing around the bend.