Turkey hunter realizes dream


For a decade, Thomas Bleakley of Kingsville chased the dream from the Eastern Shore, to Southern Maryland to the high ridges of Allegany County. Through those years, Bleakley often had come close to realizing the dream -- but until this spring it had escaped him.

"This year was only my second time hunting turkeys in Western Maryland," said Bleakley. "I've hunted them in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, on and off since 1986.

"I've had them close, but never in gun range."

On April 29, Bleakley and a group of companions were hunting the Little Orleans area of Green Ridge State Forest, and daybreak brought "thunderous gobbling from around the range."

Bleakley, set up 60 yards below the crest of a ridge overlooking the Potomac River, had worked owl and crow calls and had switched to a slate when he heard a rustling in the leaves behind him.

"I froze still, but as it got closer, I began thinking, what if I called another hunter in on me?" Bleakley said.

As he turned slowly to look over his shoulder, Bleakley saw a large tom.

"He saw me instantly and took off flying and gobbling like crazy," Bleakley said. "My first thought was that I had spooked the bird of a lifetime."

Instinctively, Bleakley said, he shouldered his gun and shot, and "to my delight and surprise it crumpled like a mallard on Taylors Island."

The gobbler, checked in at Bill's Place in Little Orleans, weighed 19 pounds, 4 ounces, had a 10.25-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.

"Patience," said Bleakley. "It finally paid off."

Marketing the Whitbread

Over the weekend, Dennis Conner, the only American to lose the America's Cup, said that the organizers of the Whitbread Round the World Race would make a mistake by sailing up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore and Annapolis in the spring of 1998.

Conner said the stopover, which will follow on the heels of a longer layover in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is simply a marketing tool, and the shallows of Chesapeake Bay will present dangers to Whitbread racers that draw 14 feet or more.

Earlier this spring, race director Ian Bailey-Willmott told The Sun

that, yes, indeed, the Baltimore-Annapolis stopover is a marketing tool.

"It is off the direct route 'round the world, but these days the Whitbread is very much a grand prix event," Bailey-Willmott said. "It is more than just an ocean race. In order that people can find the money to do it from sponsors, one has to make a course attractive to those sponsors.

"And coming to a place like Baltimore, which does offer one of the most attractive city-center waterfronts of anywhere in the world and is the center of such a large population -- Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and not that far from New York -- that is important to our sponsors."

Race organizers said that the top-notch skippers and crews of the Whitbread fleet should have little trouble navigating the Chesapeake, which handles large numbers of ocean-going cargo ships.

Conner, who sailed two legs of the last Whitbread aboard Winston, was in the area to promote sales of a sailing shoe.

One could suppose that there wasn't a marketing tool in use when that trip to Annapolis was planned.

State record

On June 1, Edward Tinus of Whaleysville caught an 8 pound, 1 ounce sheepshead on a sand crab bait fished at the inlet in Ocean City. The catch set a state record for the species, which has been added to the list of fish eligible for the Maryland Sportfishing Tournament this year.

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