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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

These jakes no patty-cakes

April 28, 2002

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— In the late-afternoon light, the mature gobbler was shining as if made of hammered copper.

He was gobbling on station, which means he was standing in one spot, turning in a circle, calling repeatedly, hoping to lure a breeding hen to his location.

This Kerr County bird finally realized he was wasting his time and slowly moved up a dusty ranch road, stopping occasionally to gobble and listening for a response. Over the hill, I heard the faint sounds of a distant gobbler answering the bird I was watching.

The gobbler wandered out of sight up the hill and I basically forgot about him. I was sitting in a deer stand, hoping an axis deer doe might show up and I could collect her for the freezer.

Ten minutes later, the lone gobbler came back down the hill on a dead run and sprinted out of sight through a cedar thicket.

About 30 seconds behind the mature gobbler, which looked like a 2-year-old bird, was a gang of five jake gobblers, intent on running their long-bearded elder out of their territory. Jakes are young-of-the-year males, born last spring.

The jakes were probably brothers. They acted just like human teenage gangs, posturing, full of pomp and self-importance. One bird, the gang's dominant jake, plumped up into a full strut and really acted bad.

On another part of the ranch the previous morning, my wife and I had witnessed an actual fight between two dominant jakes that were probably not brothers. The duo fought for 15 minutes, chasing each other around an open field, locking necks in a turkey's version of arm wrestling, jumping and spurring with their stubby leg spurs and grabbing beaks full of wattle.

In Texas, Jakes are very abundant and John Burk Texas Parks and Wildlife's turkey program leader thinks the abundance of jakes could have an affect on spring turkey hunting success.

"When there are this many jakes, the young gobblers gang up against mature gobblers and chase them off," said Burk. "As a result, mature gobblers do less gobbling because they don't want to attract jakes."

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