I never get tired of looking at turkeys. People seem to take them for granted since they are so common, but I find them beautiful and fascinating.
Did you know that the turkey was almost designated as America's national bird? It was nominated by Ben Franklin and lost the to bald eagle by just one vote. Personally, I think the turkey would have made more sense. Community, industry, harmony, all these values are better represented by the turkey, while the eagle was chosen merely to represent "strength" despite the fact that it would be decades before the US would become a major military power.
Every spring and fall, I got out turkey-spotting. Armed with a caller, a camera, binoculars, and sometimes a small amount of turkey feed, I look for them all over my state.
One time I was walking through a certain woodland during early November when I spotted a lone gobbler under a beech tree. Its plumage was simply striking, and I crept slowly toward it to try to get the best picture possible.
He didn't move as I closed in. Something was off about this bird.
When I got to within 50 feet, I could have slapped myself when I realized what it was. The rooster with the fabulous plumage was a decoy.
This wasn't even the first time I'd been fooled by one during my turkey safaris, but in this case it was particularly disappointing. I thought I had an award-winning photo opportunity.
I felt dumber the more I looked at it. Its neck was too long, head too big, and the "striking" tail feathers were now obviously fake. I should have known, they were too colorful.
In fact, it looked kind of like a kid's paper mache project. The decoy even had hilarious white googly eyes.
Someone wanted to try their hand at making their own decoy, I guessed. I supposed if it was good enough to fool real turkeys, then it was good enough.
It was amusing enough that I decided to take a picture anyway, but before I could raise my camera, I was startled by the sound of a turkey gobbling.
It was loud, too loud, and sounded like it came from the decoy. It would be surprisingly sophisticated for such a thing to have gobbler recordings. Maybe the decoy belonged to the conservation department and they were using it to catch poachers, since the fall gobbler season had recently ended, but if that were the case then they did a poor job constructing the decoy itself.
And yet, within moments I heard response calls from the woods around me. A great cacophony of globbles was approaching, getting closer. I was almost weirdly scared of them considering there seemed to be so many, like I was hearing a stampede of horses in the distance and new I had to take cover fast.
Within moments, a flood of what must have been scores of turkeys emerged into the clearing, converging on the globbler decoy. It was certainly the strangest thing I had ever seen in all my years of turkey watching.
Well, now I had another opportunity for a great photo. At the front of this mob, I saw a male turkey fanning out his tail, flapping his wings, and aggressively clucking at the decoy. Bluffing toward a rival male. Adorable.