June 29, 2014
By Bob Fala
The longest daylight of the year in these parts at nigh fifteen hours is now behind us. The cattle farmers out there don’t want to burn too much of it in their quest to mow this winter’s supply of hay. A more than full winter plus ample spring rains have delayed the first mowing to around mid-June. Thankfully for the swarm attack of fawn-birthing circa the last week in May, the little tykes should be mobile enough to escape those unfortunate accidental deaths by mowing. Other summertime wildlife are out and about too.
However, that first spindly-legged fawn sight is always a treat. Solitary doe deer are as cautious as they can be in the tall grass not wanting to disclose the location of their offspring. Groundhogs are roaming about too, mowing a little grass of their own compliments of the farmers who prevent the trees from taking over the hayfields, shading out their primary grass food source in the process.
The groundhogs and deer just can’t seem to dodge all those vehicles competing for space along the grassy roadsides. And clunk, just like that, the road kill café is as bounteous as ever. Maybe folks just don’t give a hoot as everybody seems to be in a hurry these days, wildlife in the collective be doomed! And now there are the crows, ravens and vultures playing chicken with those mighty vehicles oft to a fatal conclusion as well. That is, as they try to scavenge the carcass feast that litters the highways.
The wild turkey is as slick as there is when it comes to being cautious and leery of humans per se and their fast moving vehicles. Yet every once in a while even the wary wild turkey will make their way to the road kill category. Just like for doe deer, solitary hen turkeys that don’t vamoose the way they usually do the rest of the year, are tending their young.
One bold hen we walked into along a grassy Mingo County gas line right-of-way starting clucking at us in an aggressive and aggravated fashion, holding her ground all the while. As we suspected, she was defending her brood of chicks that scurried into the timber. We backed off and left her to her chores quite impressed by the protective instincts directed at two grown men, no less.
There was this other roadside hen turkey tending her brood of now grouse-sized poults along a Tucker County hayfield. Certainly a pleasant if not that odd of a mid-June site, except this girl was sporting a stringy five-inch beard of the sort that only the male turkey is supposed to wear. Female wild turkeys donned in beards are far more common than doe deer that grow antlers, yet that too occasionally occurs in the wild.
As relating to bearded hens, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) reports that within their recent spring gobbler hunting season, where all bearded turkeys are legal fare, some 322 or 1.1 percent of the 29,943 turkeys checked in were in fact bearded hens. Other surveys have shown that percentage to be even higher.
And with that, it’s summertime and the daylight is more than plenty enough to get out there and give things a further look see.