Bluffton Packet

Jean Tanner: Let's talk turkey

I spotted this group of wild turkey's while walking down Old Miller Road.
I spotted this group of wild turkey's while walking down Old Miller Road. Special to The Bluffton Packet

One might think Thanksgiving, being in November, would be the month to hunt and bag a gobbler for that 'special' dinner feast.

Not so. But before you yell "foul" (meaning offensive to the senses), think "fowl" (as in baking hen or duck) for another type of bird to grace the table.

Needless to say, the season to garner that wild turkey for Thanksgiving 2015 ran from March 30th-May 5th, so if you didn't go hunting then, got lucky and popped one in the freezer, you should think about settling for a fresh, domestic, homegrown turkey from a turkey farmer or the frozen variety from your favorite grocer.

For small families who don't savor a lot of leftovers, deciding on the more prolific year-round fowl, the lowly chicken -- as in a nice plump hen -- will serve the purpose just as well, yielding a nice, rich broth for that home-made cornbread dressing.

Gracing the front page of the July-August 2015 Special Sportsman's Calendar issue of South Carolina Wildlife magazine is a photo of an intrepid turkey hunter using his two-wheeled transport to put himself in the best spot to harvest a gobbler, quietly and without the use of fossil-fuel.

This photo -- one of the images chosen for the 2015-2016 SCW calendar -- was entered into the 2015 SCW-Hampton Wildlife Photo Contest gallery. It was taken and submitted by Amy Hunt and is a tribute to the serious minded turkey hunter.

In this same issue, David Lucas, South Carolina Wildlife magazine editor, claims that "Turkeys are awesome, just ask any turkey hunter. As a big game species, the wild turkey presents a unique challenge unlike any other in the sporting world; one that is 100% addicting with no known cure." Using a "non-traditional" mode of transport to get to where the birds are could be called "pedal and call".

Lucas also says that the wild turkey is a best-known wildlife conservation success story.

At the beginning of the 20th century, habitat loss and over-hunting had decimated the wild turkey population in the United States, including South Carolina. A ground breaking agreement in 1948 between the United States Forest Service and the then-South Carolina Game and Fish Department kicked off a long-term plan that entailed building up populations of turkeys and deer in the Water-horn section of the Francis Marion National Forest. Both species were then trapped and relocated to the upper parts of the state.

This plan, funded by excise taxes paid by sportsmen and women on hunting equipment, ammunition, and state hunting license fees, was an unqualified success. Today these magnificent animals are found in good numbers across South Carolina.

Having lived among avid turkey hunters in my family, including grandfather, daddy, and my husband and sons, there have been quite a few wild turkeys to carve come Thanksgiving.

Wild turkeys are tricky to track and harvest for the hunter and the dickens to clean and prepare ready for the oven by the cook. I can attest to that.

I, for one, am just as satisfied to sit around the table surrounded by family and friends, with a 'store-bought' tom turkey or a plump 'de-cackled' laying hen garnished with cornbread dressing, giblet gravy and cranberry relish.

But then, I'm not the hunter.

I'm just the cook.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Contributor Jean Tanner is a lifetime rural resident of the Bluffton area and can be reached at jstmeema@hargray.com.

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