MONUMENT - Feathered creatures abound at Rose and Darrell Howe's ranch on Top Road northwest of Monument.
Formerly of Bend, where Darrell had an electrical contracting business for 35 years, the couple retired to the 400-acre spread about 10 years ago.
"When we moved, there was nothing here," Darrell said. "We've been living here, oh, 10 going on 11 years now."
"Retirement" is just a word, considering the amount of work the couple has done on the property.
In addition to a comfortable log house, outbuildings, a riding stable, including an arena where Rose teaches English Riding classes, the Howes have also reintroduced wild turkeys to the Monument area.
"We started raising wild turkeys about six or seven years ago," Darrell said. "We started out with seven hens and three toms and now we have over 200 of them. As soon as the weather starts to change in the fall, they come back home."
"At first, we collected the eggs and hatched them, but we got tired of clipping wings so they would stay home," Rose said. "After that, we started turning them loose."
Right now, the hens are roosting in the woods surrounding the house, but are often seen heading down to the pond on the property.
"Just the other day, I saw a hen and 14 little ones," Darrell said. "They were about four inches tall and still had the yellow spots on them. There was another hen with a bunch more chicks that came by as well."
Rose said the bearded toms are still coming into the ranch.
"You can usually hear them in the early morning," she said.
With so many turkeys returning to the ranch, the Howes have had the opportunity to capture some and release some of them to other locations in the area for the past two or three years.
"We've sent two loads over to Cottonwood Creek and another to the Painted Hills," Darrell said. "There was a guy in Mitchell who wanted some, but he called too late last year. I plan on getting him some this year, though."
Darrell said there is a trick to capturing the sometimes elusive birds.
"As soon as it starts to snow, you get a horse trailer and open the back doors. Then you bait the inside of the trailer with cracked corn and grain and wait for the birds to come. It usually takes about a month for them to get used to feeding inside the trailer. You get up one morning after they've started coming in regularly and just close the trailer's doors and you've got them," he said.
Turkeys are not the only birds that visit the Howes.
"We also have hundreds of hummingbirds which come around," Rose said. "We end up going through a quart of sugar water a day feeding them. Just before dark there's like a cloud of them when they come into the feeder and when the feeder gets empty, they get grumpy and will bombard you until it gets filled back up."