Battling Gobblers

Locked in combat, a pair of gobblers emerges from behind a mesquite motte. One is gripping the other's beak in his own and is attempting to throw his rival off balance. If he is able to get him down, he will then pummel him with wings and spurs.

It is early for wild Rio Grande turkeys to be fighting for dominance, and although the year is only a couple of weeks old these two toms are determined to sort out who is numero uno in these parts. While they struggle, several other gobblers watch the battle, and one struts proudly around the pair with tail spread wide.

An increase in daylight normally triggers hormonal changes and male turkeys usually begin gobbling and strutting in February and March to attract females. These rivals are ahead of schedule and are deciding in advance who is boss bird.

They carry their battle back into the brush clucking and pecking at one another as each tries to grab the other's beak. After struggling in the bushes for several minutes, they re-emerge into the clearing each seeking an advantage.

One of the toms finally manages to grasp the others beak. Bending and twisting their necks the fight continues as the other gobblers follow the action. Sometimes they disengage, but then lock on once again beak to beak and toe to toe as they dance in the sunlit clearing.

Finally, they unclench and one flees with the victor in subdued pursuit. Both seem exhausted, and they retreat to the shade of a thorny mesquite. There is a brief squabble or two, but neither seems really interested in resuming the bout.

I do not know how long the battle lasted, but from the time I began watching them at least 20 minutes elapsed. When I left, they were still standing close by one another panting in the shade. Judging from their weary look it seemed doubtful any further struggle would ensue.

Spring turkey season in the Rio Grande Valley opens March 31 and runs thru May 13. Only gobblers may be taken with a bag limit of four for spring and fall seasons combined.

The past couple of years have been tough on turkeys as persistent drought has prevailed. However, abundant winter rains have fallen across much of southernmost Texas, and this could be a banner year for turkey production.

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Copyright 2007 Richard Moore