Few things say spring in northeast Iowa as vividly and vociferously as turkeys gobbling to greet the dawn. That’s even more true in our hills along the Turkey River, where we hear the big toms daily, and admire them as they strut their stuff for the hens. They huff, they puff, they fan their tail feathers, and do their macho best to impress the females – who usually feign disinterest.
Mostly, the theatrics are played out in secluded fields or clearings in the woods. But sometimes the birds assemble on the neighbor’s distant hill, where we can watch them through the spotting scope. Occasionally, the toms get so love-struck that they may strut in front of our house, where we have a ring-side seat to the mating ritual.
Yes, I sometimes put on the camo clothing, take the box call and shotgun, and sneak into the woods in an attempt to shoot a tom. And, often as not, I must admit that the turkeys usually win the battle of wits! But what a great way to experience a morning in the woods! Flitting warblers, inquisitive chickadees, suspicious squirrels, and cautious deer may come within a few feet when you’re sitting still enough. And just listening to the yelps, cuts, squawks, and gobbles echoing over the valley is ample reward for having to wake up before 5 a.m. Who knows – if you’re REALLY lucky, you might even find a few morels!