Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
Wild Turkey Hen Fights a Hawk
A wild turkey hen fights a hawk in this video and one bird wins.
That's pretty amazing stuff there, eh, including the hen's victory strut.
You late-season spring turkey hunters have likely encountered brood hens with poults – especially up north where seasons run into late May and even early June in Maine. I did as recently as May 19 while hunting New Hampshire's Connecticut River Valley region. When we accidentally cross paths, it's often clear a wild turkey hen will do anything to protect her little ones . . .
It happened unexpectedly. I'd hiked to the top of a mountain, found fresh black bear scat and saw deer, but struck no gobblers whatsoever. I started back down the steep incline. On a stretch of grassy path, I found a turkey feather – just dropped by the looks of it. I set up nearby and softly called, thinking I might raise a bird. Footsteps in the leaves behind me and soft clucking said something had heard me. She appeared to my right, a turkey hen. Maybe a strutter would follow? Nope, not a longbeard. A bunch of fuzzy poults.
I didn't know this at first. She eased over the grassy rise, now out of sight and things got quiet again. Restless, I stood, eased over there, still thinking a gobbler might be silently strutting with her; possibly joining her from the near woods. She crouched down fast, right in front of me. Around her the ground teemed with little ones. My bad.
At this she stood her ground, alarm screaming and spreading her wings wide. Sorry, I snapped no picture of this stand-off. I did slowly step back, carefully watching the ground and shooting this quick iPhone photo of the turkey poults. I slipped away. Not long after I heard assembly yelping and assumed all was well again.
After waiting a good half-hour at my setup, I walked in that direction again (my truck was parked below the grassy trail). She unexpectedly alarm putted in the near woods, her poults surrounding her. Still there! At this I eased down a nearby drainage ditch and slipped past the miffed mama hen and her brood.
Brood hens mean business. If you're a red-tailed hawk, you might just stay hungry or choose less formidable quarry like field mice. If you're a turkey hunter just finishing out the spring season, a bunch of poults running with their brood hen is a pretty cool thing to see. Then you leave and wish them good luck against hawks and other predators out there.
Ever encounter a brood hen with poults in the late season? How does the turkey hatch look in your area of the country? Let us know in the comments section below.
Thanks to Wisconsin's Chandler Miesen for the July 7 "Strut Report" on turkey activity and poult sightings. We're happy to hear from you there too. Keep us posted.