Gabbing with gobblers half the thrill

On the Outdoors

April 11, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

When Bill Rowan wants to leave his hunting trailer in Western Maryland and do some serious calling, he heads through the pre-dawn hours to No Name Vista in Green Ridge State Forest.

"You get there early, and at daylight you'll hear some turkeys and get them talking to you, maybe bring one in close," said Rowan, an avid turkey hunter who retired from a 39-year career with AT&T in 1989.

"I thoroughly enjoy talking to them, and while it might seem funny, there are some I won't kill, even when I have the chance."

Rowan, of Baldwin in Baltimore County, is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and is deeply involved in turkey conservation programs.

Yesterday, for example, Rowan, 65, headed to Cambridge to pick up seed out-dated for farming but still suitable for food plots for wildlife.

He planned to donate the seed to Billmeyer Wildlife Management Area, where it would be sowed and eventually help to sustain the wildlife population there.

Earlier this year, with the help of funds from the wild turkey federation, Rowan helped plant food plots at the Spring Air area of Gunpowder State Park, where 15 turkeys were transplanted last year.

"You know, there are people who look at [hunters] wrong," said Rowan. "We don't want to kill anything out. We want to conserve it for future generations. Kill it out and it is gone forever."

After many years as both a deer and turkey hunter, Rowan now concentrates on turkeys, with an eye toward what he calls "educated birds" that have hearing fine-tuned to the errors of calling hunters.

"I just feel like I'm a success when I can get a turkey talking to me and thinking I'm one of them," said Rowan, who recently walked part of the Woodmont tract in Western Maryland's Washington County.

"That's a successful hunt.

"People sometimes laugh when I say that about a successful hunt, but I hunt educated birds, and to get them talking, you have to be good."

While scouting the Woodmont property, acquired by DNR earlier this year and to be opened in part for the April 18-May 16 season for bearded turkeys, Rowan said he was able to get five gobblers to gobble over the course of two miles.

"That property has great potential, but I won't hunt it this year," Rowan said. "You know it's going to be crowded because it's new."

Rather, Rowan will hunt the ridges and hollows of Green Ridge, Garrett County and a portion of West Virginia.

Part of being good is knowing where the birds will be during the monthlong season.

When winter ends, Rowan said, the birds -- males and hens -- will stay down in the hollows close to spring seeps, where the first bits of vegetation appear.

"The acorns [mainstays of winter] are usually gone by now," said Rowan, "and anything that pops up -- weeds, whatever -- they're going to eat it."

But as the weather warms, the birds will move up the mountains, favoring slopes exposed to the southeast, which gets the first and longest light and the most warmth from the sun.

"They spread out with the feed, and by the time the season opens," Rowan said, "the birds are going to be up the mountain."

In some years, Rowan said, he hasn't bothered to go out to hunt until the third week of the season, waiting for prime conditions to track the birds.

"The reason is that the [male] birds start to gobble hard before the season, then they get their harems together and don't gobble much until the hens begin to sit -- and that can take some time."

Hens lay one egg per day, said Rowan, and laying a full clutch can mean up to 12 days per hen and perhaps as many as 20 days per harem.

Even though one meeting with a male fertilizes a hen for the season, the hens remain active afterward, and the males have to do little calling to acquire companionship.

"The hens don't start sitting on the eggs until they're finished laying them," Rowan said. "But once they start to sit, that's the time the males really start to gobble."

And it also is the time Rowan likes to start talking back in earnest.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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