Michael John Balog | The Summer I Spent with the Wild Turkeys

The Summer I Spent with the Wild Turkeys

November 11, 2017

Wild Turkeys, Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkeys, Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkeys In My Yard, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.       Everyone has heard about the elusiveness and intelligence of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), and it's common knowledge that Ben Franklin admired this unfortunately tasty wild bird.  I've met many hunters that have never even got a shot off at one, or saw one for that matter.  Yet on a warm day in April in the Wind River Canyon, several years ago, these two showed up in my backyard here in the canyon.

     I wasn't just surprised, I was startled; Wild Turkeys had never been seen in the Wind River Canyon in the last half century, or so I was told.  I have a lot of respect for the Wild Turkey:  I had a knockdown fight with a huge, male Wild Turkey a year earlier that left nasty, red welts on my chest!  These two monsters in my yard did scare me a bit....so, I was admittedly cautious at first.

     With any wild animal it's important to know all there is about your prey; like to stay far away from wildlife that can eat you!  Eventually, going out the front door seemed like a good solution.  They could see me coming from quite a distance, and I would have lots of cement to run-off in my Nike's.  But my very first meeting didn't turn out that way.  These two Wild Turkeys were friendly towards me....weirdly so.  We quickly became fast friends. Wild Turkey, "The Big Show" - Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkey, "The Big Show" - Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkey strutting his stuff this Spring in the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.

     These two led a charmed life that summer; traffic would stop as they crossed the road in the morning, and me with my heart in my throat watching from a window!  A big cup of sunflower seeds shaken, and my "famous" double whistle, and they would literally come running up the driveway.  We went through this feeding ritual twice every day, with me sitting right next to them.

     One very memorable July evening, we barbecued two Buffalo fillets, and our two Wild Turkeys ate their dinner right next to the picnic table where we were having ours.  It was a crazy, exciting summer's evening.  

     One of my favorite things to photograph are portraits of birds.  Some birds cooperate, some will never, ever; so you use sneaky tactics, like hide yourself.  With these two it wasn't even a challenge, it was more like photographing well behaved children.  I made the most out of the sharpness and color; to make my model really shine! Wild Turkey, "Portrait of Tom"-Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkey, "Portrait of Tom"-Wind River Canyon, WyomingPortrait of a Wild Turkey, Photographed in the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.      One afternoon I thought it would be cool if I could capture a wildlife photograph that was the "essence of attitude."  You know, the tough side of my friends, the Wild Turkeys.  There were moments throughout the summer when it was obvious they needed time alone, and that was the pose I wanted----that look.  Keep the image-stabilization on and concentrate on the expression of your subject, be it child or wild animal.  As it turns out, again, it wasn't all that difficult; I was sitting four feet away! Wild Turkey Portrait, Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkey Portrait, Wind River Canyon, WyomingWild Turkey Portrait, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.      It's true that all good things come to an end, and I knew that these two were going to have to leave the Wind River Canyon for safer winter lands.  We were left with wonderful memories of two of the most amazing wild creatures on this planet; like the afternoon a male Rufous Hummingbird and a Wild Turkey met for the very first time in wildlife history! 

     As the hummingbird buzzed from above the outstretched neck of the Wild Turkey, they stared at each other.  No Wild Turkey had ever been this close to a hummingbird, and I am sure that no Rufous Hummingbird had ever seen a Wild Turkey!  My jaw dropped as I watched these two crazy, different birds look each other over.  What were they thinking?  They're both birds, but one weighs as much as a nickel, and the other could feed an entire family for a week!

     My wife talked about how she hoped they would return to the Wind River Canyon to visit us, but we never saw them again.  A semi-truck insanely plowed through a large flock of Wild Turkeys that winter on the far-western side of Hot Springs County, killing many, many birds.  To this very day it's hard to forget "The Summer I Spent with the Wild Turkeys."

     Wind River Canyon Blog and photographs are produced by Michael John Balog and all rights are summarily reserved, or so it may seem.

*Thank you for your time.  And yes, I still like a good Turkey sandwich.