Harvest season time to watch the wild turkeys
November 8, 2012
November is harvest season. As spring calvers it is when we gather our calves and take them to market. With Thanksgiving close let me tell you about another group of animals roaming the area not so interested in going to market.
There are about a dozen of them. Not easy to count because they keep hidden, only catch sightings of them in the early morning while they are feeding. A rafter of wild turkeys feeding in the pastures.
Originally these wild turkeys were placed along the Carson River, not too far from our place, a few years ago by a wildlife group. When first hearing of the planting was not too sure wild turkeys could survive with all the coyotes and such around. But this Spring saw, a few times, a handful of fluffy poults with a couple pairs of adult turkeys, heads down, eating in the hay fields.
Recently saw a handful of bright brown and red fall colored toms and hens from a distance. They stay near willows or trees, not venturing too far out into the open field. Might they know about Thanksgiving?
This summer while on an early morning walk listening to a portable audio device, lost in thought, I suddenly find myself right next to a couple of two foot tall young turkeys eating on my side of the fence.
We are all surprised. I come to a sudden stop and the two birds not quite adult in color, but no longer fluffy little balls, go into a panic. They make quick clucking sounds not at all like a gobble. Then run about 20 feet along the fence ahead of me to a stand of thick willows they did not want to enter. So they run back in my direction. Seemingly surprised to see me when they get a few feet from me they turn and ran back towards the willows. Finding willow blocking their path they again run back towards me.
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Four adult birds on the far side of the fence just look up and watch the two young ones run away and then back to me along the fence. They only watch. I wait a minute or two to see if my two turkeys can find a hole in the fence to could climb through or remember they are birds and fly over it.
They did not try to fly in their frenzied, panic squawking, running up and down the fence. Realizing they are not going to figure out how to fly over the fence and not seeing a hole they can crawl through I continue walking toward them. Keeping space between me, them and the fence.
In a few steps I am only feet from the crazed adolescents and the willows, which the birds will still not enter. One more step I am along side them. They stop running and squawking. They stand about 21⁄2 feet tall looking at me. They were mostly gray, but some beautiful, brown-red and almost iridescent green feathers are growing along their backs. They have skinny necks, little heads and no waddle. I say good morning then keep walking past them to elevate their distress of having no escape from me.
Fascinating birds. Large, bigger than a goose yet obviously terrified of me, yet do not threaten or advance towards me. And drab, but one can see they are going to be beautifully colored adults.
The adults on the other side of the fence never move, call or run from or to me or the adolescents. On my walk back there were no turkeys around. I have only sighted them a few times since. Sure they do not know about Thanksgiving, but they are still not comfortable around humans anyway.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.