turkey dinner

The author shopped early for the family’s Christmas dinner, obtaining a turkey back in April. The eight month wait for dinner was worth it.

Our Christmas turkey dinner is worth a mention. Thinking ahead, I actually acquired the bird back in April.

Although we ate the delicious turkey on the east side of Dan’s Mountain, I was able to obtain it on the west side of that promontory.

You may be figuring out that our Christmas dinner was a wild turkey, a gobbler. In fact, it was a big gobbler, tipping the scales at 23 pounds. Because of its heft, I prepared just one half of the breast and that went a long way.

Partnered with store-bought bread stuffing (c’mon, this isn’t Julia Child here) and vegetables, our main course was a locavore’s thrill. I felt like the king of hillbillies as I chowed down. Leftovers were aplenty. At first, they turned into turkey breast sandwiches, you know, the kind on sourdough bread with horseradish sauce, sliced dill pickles, sliced pepperoni and Swiss cheese. That sandwich was so good it would make Guy Fieri roll over and whine like a puppy, although I do not really want to envision that scene.

Finally, the remaining turkey was diced and became turkey salad.

I hunt for a lot of reasons and food is one of them.

Fall harvest

Speaking of turkeys, the harvest during Maryland’s short fall turkey season, that is open only in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties, increased, but continues to remain far below the numbers of a couple decades ago. That’s because few people still hunt the big birds during the autumn season.

There were 99 turkeys checked in, which is 22% greater than one year ago. The big increase was in Washington County (50% higher) where 27 turkeys were killed. Allegany County gave up the most birds, 38 (up 15%), and Garrett County was good for 34 turkeys (up 13%).

Winter season

Coming up very soon, Jan. 19-21, is that sneaky little winter turkey season that has been around for several years now. It’s a statewide hunt. Only shotguns and bows are legal during this brief season.

The past couple years in these far western counties, nasty winter weather has had an impact on the hunt, in my estimation. I say that because I was out there freezing my (bleep) off. Any turkey is legal, meaning triggers can be pulled at gobblers and hens, at little turkeys and big ones.

Harvests during this hunt have been low. However, according to Bob Long, the chief turkey biologist for the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service, a good portion of the bag is usually made up of adult gobblers.

During the past six seasons, the most birds bagged in Allegany County were nine. A year ago, the harvest was four. In 2017 and again in 2020, Garrett County hunters registered nine birds. In 2022, the harvest was four.

No county in Maryland had a double-digit turkey harvest during the 2022 winter hunt.

The greatest harvest recorded during winter seasons was 14 in Dorchester County in 2017.

You are allowed one turkey during the fall/winter seasons. Thus, the 99 people who killed autumn turkeys have to sit out the winter hunt.

Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as Cumberland Times-News outdoor editor. His column now appears biweekly. To order his book, “Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life,” send him a check for $15 to 16415 Lakewood Drive, Rawlings, MD 21557.

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