This is one of the big boy’s smaller buddies
|This jake can kickstart the adrenaline flow, but the truly ‘Big Boys’, attract attention; and no small amount of worry for the hunter(s!), hot-on-their-trail.
photo Dave Richey ©2012
One thing about turkey gobblers is true. There are far fewer big old longbeards running around northern Michigan than jakes.
The other day I spotted a huge longbeard in a field about 15 miles from home. The bird was wandering alone although two or three hens weren’t very far away.
What struck me about this bird, besides his larger than normal size, was his beard. The beard was at least 10-12 inches in length, and appeared to be as wide as a big paint brush. It hung ponderously off his chest, and swayed from side to side as he walked.
Big longbeards like that cause traffic jams
I noted the time of day, drove a half-mile down the road and out of sight of the gobbler, turned around and drove past him for another look. From this angle the bird looked even larger, and the beard was dragging the dirt whenever he bent over to feed.
This was a gobbler of extraordinary proportions. Such birds are difficult to keep hid because he seemed bound and determined to stand out in the open where he could be seen by every vehicle that traveled the busy road.
We drove away, and the next day we went back looking for this Monarch of the open fields. Sure enough, he was in the same field, walking the edge of a wood lot, and about 100 yards off the paved road.
The question is how long will he stay there? If he keeps showing himself, every turkey hunter west of Interlochen and north of US-31 will be trying to hunt him. The bird is on private land, and seems enthralled with the area.
It’s my assumption that the big gobbler and some hens are roosting nearby. I see him about two hours after sunrise, and the birds never stray too far from this spot.
My bet is the bird will be scared by human activity
Company came and spent three days here, and I didn’t have any chance to go out checking on the big gobbler. I know for certain that at least two other hunters know about him, and suspect he has now been seen by many more people.
The burning question is whether he will still be around when turkey season opens. I spotted another car parked along the road, and figured he was watching the bird.
He had binoculars to his face when I pulled up. He turned, saw me and whispered “Big bird.” I nodded in agreement.
The bird walked off into the woods, and he asked if I had known the bird was there. I told him I’d been watching the gobbler for a few days.
“Are you planning to hunt him?” he asked. I told him that I might if he sticks around.
“Do you think he will still be in this area when the season opens,” he asked. “I just spotted him on my way home, and I’ve never seen a beard like that before.”
His was a valid question. Would this bird still be in the area when the turkey season opens? It’s not very likely.
I felt the big gobbler would disappear before the opener
“I doubt if he will still be here then,” I said, being honest with the guy. “A bird that big attracts a great deal of attention, and I suspect people pressure will force him to move on.
“How far he and the hens will move is just a guess. I’d expect him to breed those hens before the season opener, and then he will be off in search of other hens. He could be several miles away when the season kicks off.”
Would I hunt him? Certainly, if I could get hunting permission for that land. However, my guess is he will be gone in a week or less because other people now know where he is, and if cars continue to stop and watch him, the pressure will force him to get on his way.
And, perhaps that is a good thing. Such big birds are tempting, and poachers often figure a way to shoot such birds out of season. That is one reason why I didn’t say how far west of Interlochen Corners or how many miles north.
I may go looking for him again tomorrow, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is gone already. Perhaps I’ll be lucky and find him again, and then, I may never see that gobbler again.
The next time I spot him, if there is a next time, there will not be any notations in my blog. The only reason I’ve written about the bird is because of his size and because I know he won’t hang around there long.
He will shove off, move elsewhere, and it’s likely he will take over the hens of a smaller gobbler, and soon he will be following the hens. They will keep him moving, and the more nearby eyes and ears there are, the safer that bird will be.