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Hey Turkey, You're on Camera

fter our June in January break in the weather it’s a very good thing to have some more rain. We’re still not out of the drought woods as yet, but things are looking far better right now than they did last November. That said, I did not take advantage of the good January weather by going steelhead fishing, or hunting during the final weeks of the upland game bird season I used to do both things religiously, but not any more.

I blame it on the turkeys. People who read my stuff know that turkey hunting is a passion of mine, and something I’ve written dozens of articles and two books about. What folks may not realize is that it takes a lot of pictures to illustrate the stories and someone has to take them. For the most part, that someone is me.

Turkey standing on her long beard as she eats, photo by John Higley
I watched this hen step on her beard as she fed. It's an unusual shot that show why turkey beards reach a certain length and stay there.

A couple of times a week I sit in a blind on private property in Shasta County for the express purpose of photographing the wild turkeys that spend the winter there. This year the winter flock is made up entirely of hens which is slightly unusual. Normally, there will be a few young males in the group but this year all the young males (jakes) and adult males (toms) are evidently in separate flocks. So be it. I take what I can get, and recently I got what I think is a unique photo of a bearded hen. At least five hens, in the flock of 30 I’ve been watching, have beards. They are not as thick or as long as the beards grown by adult toms but two of the hens have beards roughly nine inches long.

Closeup of Turkey, photo by John Higley
I like watching turkeys especially when they get this close and don't know I'm there because of the blind.

The beards of toms and hens never stop growing so the obvious question is why do they reach a certain length and stay there? The answer is that they wear off due to friction when they drag on the ground as a turkey walks or bends over to feed. Recently, I saw evidence of this up close and personal. In fact, the photograph of a hen I alluded to shows a hen actually stepping on her beard and stretching it out straight. It tells me that she does that everyday so her beard will never be longer than it is now. I don’t know of another photo like this although I’m sure someone has one somewhere.

Flattened turkey blind, photo by John Higley
The wind early Monday morning did a number on the blind and it has been retired.

Okay, back to the blind. During the windy squalls that passed through the area early Monday morning the blind, partly held together with duct tape already, simply blew apart. It is officially retired (it’s junk actually) but don’t worry I have a new one to put up in a week or so.

Meanwhile, I’m heading for Nashville and the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual Convention and Sports Show. Having been there before, I know it’s quite a shindig and I’ll report on the adventure as soon as I get back home.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.


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