A Hunter’s Story: Novice Nabs Her First Turkey
Oh, how I love to turkey hunt! Now I love to guide as well, having run my first paid guided turkey hunt. I’d been asked in the past and was always too busy with my own hunting, or scheduling other shooting and hunting events for my business. I decided I’d try it; after all, nothing pleases most hunters—myself included—more than turning others on to hunting and enjoying the great outdoors. I had no idea about the fantastic first hunt I would experience.
It was day 16 in the Maryland spring gobbler season and I was guiding two enthusiastic female novices. We were hunting on several hundred acres of private land in the Friendsville area, adjacent to Savage River State Forest in Garrett County. While scouting, I found a promising area with numerous scratch bowls and droppings, in a location that also presented a large field of view—perfect for setting up our blind!
Jessica, Lauren, and I were up at 4 a.m. and out of our rental cabin at 4:45. We took a short drive to the property, loaded gear onto the ATV and drove approximately two miles, where we parked along the woods line and then walked another 10 minutes into the hardwoods to the blind. I set the decoys (a hen and a jake) in a position to allure a lonely or dominant gobbler, and we were ready by 5:25 a.m.
The gobbling started promptly at 5:45 a.m. There were several different birds announcing their presence from different locations. I greeted them with a few soft purrs. Oh boy, did that ever wake them up! The dialogue between us went on for about 30 minutes before we had three fired-up gobblers running across the ridge toward us with one thing on their minds. All three approached the decoys and when they stopped and appeared ready to pounce on the jake, I told Lauren to shoot first, followed by Jessica. Lauren connected on a beautiful longbeard with a 10¼-inch beard and unique white markings on a few tail fan feathers! Unfortunately, Jessica did not have the same opportunity as Lauren, but that didn’t dampen the moment, and high fives were exchanged. Their excitement was exhilarating!
“This was an experience I’ll never forget. Seeing the turkeys coming to the decoys in response to the calls was thrilling. I had such a hard time keeping my wits about me to take the shot because of the adrenaline and nerves. I have turkey meat in the freezer and I’m choosing my recipes now. . . I’m sure this won’t be my last turkey hunt!”
– Lauren Thomas
It was a fabulous, exciting hunt and well worth the planning and lack of sleep that led up to this moment. The look on Lauren’s face was priceless; it was a perfect hunt scenario, perfect shot placement, and a bit of luck for these novice turkey hunters to have experienced what unfolded before us!
Garrett County offers numerous hunting opportunities on both private and state game lands for the outdoor enthusiast. I’ve taken several nice birds in Savage River State Forest. If you are not sure where to hunt and need additional information on accessing public hunting locations and maps visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Ann Marie Foster is a mentor in the department’s Mentored Hunt Program. Article appears in Vol. 23, No. 1 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2020.