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This Week’s Creature Feature ... Who’s That Turkey?

From wild to Broad Breasted White

The turkey carved for your Thanksgiving dinner is likely a Broad Breasted White, a hybrid developed to live up to its name.
    Heritage breeds like the Black Spanish and Urban Red Ed Cramer raises at Fisher Farm in La Plata may be tastier, but they are more costly to raise, grow slower and produce less meat than the Broad Breasted White. You’ll pay roughly twice the price of a small-farm, pasture-raised, Broad Breasted White to enjoy one of those birds.
    You could have a wild turkey for the cost of your time and hunting paraphernalia — if you could catch one.
    I went on a wild goose chase to find turkeys in their natural habitat with Southern Maryland Audubon Society President Mike Callahan. The only turkey we found in our Calvert County quest was stuffed and on display at Battle Creek Swamp.
    Wild turkeys have excellent hearing and vision. Their field of view is about 270 degrees. That’s the main reason they continue to elude hunters and writers like me.
    Turkeys like forests with grassy openings. They roost in trees and fly to the ground at first light to feed until mid-morning, resuming in mid-afternoon.
    Ranger Winston Boutaugh at King’s Landing Park scrapes his turkey call — handmade from a piece of slate and redwood — every weekend morning to successfully call turkeys that live at the park into public view. Boutaugh can get within 50 yards of the gobblers.
    “We have 12 at the park, and three are Toms,” Boutaugh said. “One is at least 22 pounds and is double-bearded.”
    Southern Maryland’s wild turkeys are increasing in population with around 10,000 in Calvert County, according to experts. But with their keen eyesight and elusive nature, they’re likely to keep away from any curious human without an expert caller.