Ten Minutes of Fighting Fury

Posted on May 7, 2019



I believe that, after all, an essential thrill is reserved for the man who hunts his game all alone in the wilderness. – Archibald Rutledge



It always astounds me when immersed in nature how the quietude of my surroundings can switch so quickly to raucous action. It is as if the script had just been dropped out of thin air. This very morning was exactly that; from nothingness to all-out war.



Sitting inconspicuously behind my camera in preparation for, well, you just never know who’s going show up, but my hope was turkeys. Regardless of habits, what they did yesterday, from which directions they may arrive, how many will show, or even the time of day, none of that matters. You see, turkeys don’t wear watches, they have no job, schedule or care beyond what is currently in front of their beak, thus, I can never be certain of the bird’s arrival. I don’t know if they got the memo to come to the party or what birds will be part of today’s flock. There’s just enough mystery to keep me coming back for more.



As light began to gather in the east, song birds in a cacophony of serenading sounds filled my ears with background noise. I was listening hard for one of two sounds to break the silence, a yelp or gobble; either one would indicate the birds were about to appear.

I was forty-five minutes into my sit and still no show. To be fashionably late is one thing, to skip the entire date is just plain disappointing. Just when I was about to give up for the morning, instincts told me to hold tight a bit longer. Was it indeed instinct or wishful thinking on my part? Regardless, I’m glad I stayed put.









Moments later, a group of Jakes, one, two, three…ten of them filtered into the field silently. And as eerily as the juvenile group had conspicuously appeared, a booming gobble emanated from the field to my left. Within mere seconds, the double-bearded gobbler made his way to where the Jakes were, and continued gobbling.

As I concentrated on photographing the double beard gobbling, two more birds began answering him from whence he had come. Taking my eyes off the camera to look revealed a pair of mature Toms strutting their stuff and heading towards the ever-growing party.



Beyond the occasional gobbles between the mature and Jakes, none of these males seemed bothered or threatened with the present company. It seemed that each of them knew the others and their place in the proverbial pecking order. And then it happened. Gobbles started coming from the same field to my left, only this time all 13 males in front of me stopped what they were doing, came to full alert and became eerily quiet. Four delinquent Jakes, showing little regard came barging into the party.



Much like the line in the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch paused prior to pushing the sleigh full of gifts over the edge that read, “And he (the Grinch) did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low…then it started to grow”, fighting purrs softly started with a couple of the Jakes. And then more of them chimed in. With no further warning than this, the bell rang! It’s on, and all hell broke loose.









The birds were racing every which way in front of me; chasing each other as if out at recess expending energy. It was not easy keeping the lens focused while swinging it on the tripod to follow the action. The volume of noise escalated as did the intensity of what had now become a battle royal. This was no longer a shadow boxing intimidation match, these birds literally were out to kill one another as the feathers began to literally fly.

Chest banging, spur driving, beak pecking, anything to do damage to the opposing birds. This was a bar brawl the likes of which I remember seeing on some of my favorite westerns. No holds barred, continuous action with lots and lots of noise.




When photographing such a rare occurrence as this, there is no time to look down at the view finder to check focus, ISO etc., you just keep pressing the shutter release and hope that you are getting everything, tack-sharp.



“How long could this rumble continue,” I thought. I’ve photographed a few turkey skirmishes over the years, but none that lasted more than a couple of minutes. It was beaks and spurs, chest pounding, winner declared, end of battle. With this fight, I’m not certain who started it, or if a winner could even be declared. Once the fracas started, I think every bearded bird in attendance jumped into the ring.









And then, without any notice, the noise ceased, the turkeys stopped where they were, and all returned to normalcy. It was as if nothing had ever happened. Ten full minutes of brutality administered onto each other and we had no winner. There was no displays of superiority nor inferiority…but then again we’re dealing with turkeys, which may well be akin to school yard boys out for recess.



Whatever it was, I can say for certain it was one of thee most exciting ten minutes I’ve ever spent behind the lens, or around this grand bird.



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Posted in: Turkey