Tag Archives: wild turkeys

Watching Wild Turkeys In Town

I live in a small Ozark town. To my surprise the other day I found myself watching wild turkeys at the outskirts of town.

A creek goes through parts of town. The town limit toward my home is a bridge crossing this creek. The creek area is still thick woods and is kept this way due to flooding.

Wild turkeys do live along this creek. I’d seen them out toward ShawneeMac Conservation Area. They go across the road into the pastures along there.

watching wild turkeys
As the street leaves town, it curves sharply to the left leaving a field directly ahead. The wild turkey flock was busy checking for anything edible. The creek growth behind them is where they live.

Just inside the town limit there was a small pasture. A pony lived there for a time. Across the road are some fields cut and round baled every year.

Late one afternoon as I drove home from town, I noticed a flock of wild turkeys in the small pasture. Watching wild turkeys in the fields around home I learned to do fast counts and estimated a dozen birds.

It was late. I needed to get home to let the herd in for the night. I didn’t stop.

The next time I came home I looked in the field. There were no turkeys. It must have been a fluke. Or the neighborhood dogs had made the turkeys decide to go back to their usual pastures.

wild turkey flock across the street
The small field had limited fodder. The larger hay field across the street was occupied by more wild turkeys foraging. Although wary, the turkeys weren’t frightened off by vehicles or people on the road. Most of the turkeys didn’t look up leaving that to a few guards.

After another long day in town with a list of errands much longer than the time available, I headed home. Winter days are frustrating as they get dark so early and the goats need to come in before dark.

I rolled down the hill toward the Spring Creek Bridge. There was the flock of turkeys. This time I stopped to take a couple of pictures. Watching wild turkeys is fine. Having pictures to savor later is better.

watching wild turkeys watching me
A few wild turkeys stretched up tall checking me out. If one of them ran, the entire flock would run for cover. These few guards decided my camera and I were no threat.

This was the dozen birds. I turned toward my truck. Across the road in the other fields was another dozen or more.

These are definitely town birds. Watching wild turkeys out my way takes stealth as they take off as soon as they spot you. These town birds looked me over and went back to eating.

Wild turkeys are one of the topics in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Gobbles Announce Turkey Season

Calendars don’t accommodate weather. This is a cold, wet, wintry spring. A few days lure plants and animals into spring. The next day sends them scurrying back to hide. But turkey season is still on the calendar.

Like all the other creatures, turkeys have been trying to greet spring. For tom turkeys this means putting on displays and gobbling. For hen turkeys this means finding nesting sites and hanging out with the toms.

turkey season toms

During the fall groups of tom turkeys forage for grass seed in relative harmony. In the spring these same toms are rivals competing for hens.

Usually gobbling is audible much of the day. Turkeys parade across the hill pasture easily watched from the house.

This year gobbling is an early morning sound, if the weather is warmer, like forty degrees. Otherwise the turkeys stay up in the woods scratching for leftover acorns and plants growing in spite of the frosts.

Turkey season for hunters is in April. Toms have been gobbling for a few weeks. Hens are busy laying eggs in their nests.

This year turkey season is still in April. But the toms are still getting started.

turkey season display

Only tom turkeys are hunted in the spring. During most of the year, tom turkeys keep their feathers down and aren’t much bigger than the hens letting them slip away from sight. Spring brings on the displays with tails raised and spread, feathers standing up, wings spread into fans. This is hard to miss from quite a distance away. However, wild turkeys are still wary birds and impossible to approach in the open.

There are a lot of turkeys around my hills. There is a north pasture bunch. The hill pasture bunch is the one I usually hear and see. Another bunch is in the south pasture. Next door is a huge bunch.

The bunches on my hills haven’t been hunted in years. I don’t hunt due to time and lack of skill. The neighbors love deer hunting, but don’t do much about the turkeys. The family who hunts deer on the place don’t hunt turkeys.

So the turkey population continues to go up.

Like all natural populations, turkeys die for lots of reasons. Coyotes catch them. In bad acorn years, many starve to death. Poults get picked off by coyotes and hawks.

There are still enough turkeys for a hunter to enjoy wild turkey dinner. And this year a hunter has asked to visit these hills for turkey season.

Find more about turkeys in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Tom Turkeys in Spring

Last fall a group of wild turkeys started hanging out in our pastures. At first there were five of these tom turkeys. Later there were four.

The four grazed on grass seed. These tom turkeys stayed together with few arguments. They quickly became celebrities for people driving by.

When the grass seed was gone, so were the four turkeys. This was expected but disappointing as it was enjoyable watching them. Wild turkeys especially tom turkeys are wary birds and I rarely see them let alone get a chance to watch them.

two tom turkeys

The wild turkeys are back. These are from a group of four toms hanging out together for now. Spring is coming.

Winter, such as it was, is almost gone. Warm days keep whispering of spring. Spice bush and sassafras buds are swelling. Pawpaw flower buds are too but more slowly.

Cardinals mobbed the bird feeder when cold, snow flurries and ice ruled the area. Now cardinals come by but not seriously. Instead they are in the wild plum patch and other brushy areas singing loudly as the males establish their nesting territories.

Woodpeckers are drumming in the woods. In cold weather they feast on peanut butter at the bird feeder. Peanut butter consumption has dropped as the temperatures have risen.

And the tom turkeys are back in the pastures. They pace across the same areas. The group shows signs of breaking up.

Now the four chase each other. They stay more spread out. One was spreading his tail practicing for next month.

There are several groups of hen turkeys on the hills around and above the pastures. A dozen come out into the pasture early some mornings and flee when I come out to do chores. I catch glimpses of others fleeing up into the woods from other pastures.

tom turkey with tail spread

This tom turkey knows spring is coming. He is practicing spreading his tail and chasing the other toms.

Sometime in March the group of four will separate. Gobbling will sound over the pastures early in the mornings. The hill pasture is a favorite strutting ground for tom turkeys calling for the hens to come and visit.

My fingers are crossed these four turkeys will remember me a little. I must cross the bridge and go through the trees lining the creek to get good pictures of tom turkeys courting with their tails spread and wings fanned surrounded by adoring hen turkeys.

Watching Turkeys

Halloween was the end of this year’s fall wild turkey season in Missouri. Around my place the turkeys hardly noticed.

Fall season doesn’t seem very popular around my Ozark area. Perhaps hunters think getting close enough to shoot a turkey is harder in the fall than in the spring.

In spring the tom turkeys are hunting for hen turkeys. They gobble, put on displays and argue with each other. They can come within shooting range hunting for a rival if a hunter is good enough at turkey calls.

wild turkeys eating grass seed

Some pasture grass is covered with seeds and the wild turkeys are out to enjoy eating it.

Fall has no advantages for a hunter. The turkeys are busy eating all they can getting ready for the lean winter months to come as they don’t migrate.

Other years I have seen turkeys. They were racing away even taking ponderous flight in their hurry to vanish into the woods.

This year is different. I am watching a group of five probably tom turkeys most mornings during breaks in my milking routine. They come out of the woods, cross the creek and wander up across the pasture eating grass seed.

tom turkey

The long beard marks this wild turkey as a tom. This fall five toms are traveling as a group in our pastures.

The turkeys know I am there. They stop now and again craning their necks looking over at the barn. I am standing in the open doorway so I know they can see me. They go back to eating.

Several mornings I crept down to the pasture gate even out to the old cow barn with my camera. The turkeys start moving back toward the creek but aren’t in a big hurry. Once they even ignored me finally moving off when a car came down the hill.

Now the turkeys are fun to watch as they move along in a loose flock. They must have a pecking order as they will chase each other from time to time. One stays off to the rear all the time. The order holds even as they move back to the hill unless something spooks them.

wild turkey looking at me

This wild turkey is trying to decide how close to let me approach before crossing the creek into another pasture.

Rain is not popular with the turkeys. They came out a few feet into the pasture then went back under the trees. In the evening they came out to make up for their lost morning meal of seeds.

Wild turkeys are delicious eating. Being large birds there is a meal on one. But my freezer is stocked for the winter. A big meat chicken filled my roasting pan.

Temptation was a passing fancy. Watching the turkeys has become a daily routine and will be missed when the turkeys stop grazing the pasture.