A small farm near Mayo has been fertile ground for cows and crops for more than seven decades. A group of local hunters and conservationists hopes it will be the same for quail, wild turkey and other wildlife.
Last Wednesday, Jamie Roell led folks from Quail Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation on a tour of Westbury Farm to see if the untilled portion of the 300 acres might be a good bird sanctuary.
Roell sells yachts for a living. But his passion is the future of this farm.
"This is a dream of mine, to take a farm like this and turn it into a wildlife management area where organizations can come study, where children can learn," he said.
The farm is owned by Mike Cherry, Roell's boss and owner of Cherry Yachts in Edgewater. Cherry already has guaranteed the state that the property will never be developed. Creating a wildlife refuge for scarce birds is the next logical step, Roell said.
For three hours, the men moved from field to woods to bottom land, sizing up the property with Mike Slattery and Paul Peditto of the Department of Natural Resources.
Acting as exterior decorators, the two state experts suggested the nips here and tucks there that would turn a decent wildlife home into a great one: removing dirt roads, creating nesting areas and havens from predators, planting seed to sustain quail and turkey.
Representatives from Ducks Unlimited and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation also inspected the site earlier in the week with an eye toward excavating a second pond.
"You can have the prettiest farm in the world, but without the proper habitat, you won't have the animals," Roell said. "If it takes us five years to get it right, so be it."
After the inspection, the farm got high marks from the visitors.
Gilbert Murphy, president of the central Maryland chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, likes the soft bottom land for its ability to supply insects for food and the varied types of cover.
Roscoe Tippett, state chairman of Quail Unlimited, would like to use the farm for the spring and fall dog trials, when dogs are judged on their ability to find and flush birds that are brought to the site and released. He said high grass along the edges of the field has a lot of potential to provide cover for young resident quail from predatory raccoons, opossums and feral cats.
If that isn't enough to make it a sanctuary, Roell promises this: "The turkey will never be hunted. The only quail that will be shot are the ones we bring on the site for the dog trials."
Peditto is eager to see his suggestions come alive.
"The concept of individual landowners interested in doing something good for the critters is something to be excited about," he said. "If they do what we tell them and invest the resources, those critters will come back."
Buz Meyer said going after a wild turkey "is the most challenging hunting there is. After I got my first turkey, deer hunting wasn't any fun anymore."
Meyer has lived on the Anne Arundel side of the Patuxent River for his entire 70 years and hunted for 61 of them.
Turkeys have tremendous eyesight and hearing and the patience to wait out almost any hunter. If that isn't enough of a challenge, said Meyer, they are suspicious of everything.
"A deer walks into a field and sees a stump and assumes it's a stump. A turkey walks into the same field, sees the same stump. It assumes it's a predator, and it's gone," he said.
Wild turkey season opens in all counties on April 18 and runs to May 16. The bag limit is one bearded turkey per day. The hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon.
Good luck, Buz.
I like my boat shows the way I like my boats -- in the water.
Folks who feel the same way will probably find a lot to like at the boat show that opens Thursday at the Baltimore Marine Center in Canton.
For the first time in a dozen years, the city will have an in-water boat show, with more than 100 craft tied up and ready for inspection, and another 100 boats on land.
The boats will range from 60-footers to little guys on trailers.
Producer Rick Allen, for 20 years the publisher of Southern Boating magazine, said they'll also have a collection of sailboats and catamarans for inspection.
"You can actually get on the boats, feel them move, and get in touch with the reason you got into boating," said Allen.
Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults; children under 12 are free. Free parking is available at 1000 Wills St., and a free shuttle will deposit you at the show.
For details on this event and others, see Journal on this page or go to www.sunspot.net/sports/outdoors.
Fish to the left of us. Fish to the right of us. The fishing report starts Friday. (I know it doesn't rhyme. Sue me).
Here's a quick rundown to keep you going.
Menahaden are at the mouth of the Potomac, and the summer flounder season opens in Ocean City on Saturday.
At the mouth of Deer Creek, they're still fishing shoulder to shoulder for shad. Stick with marabou combinations and move away from the mouth of the creek to get a little elbow room.
Ken Lewis of the Coastal Conservation Association said the Wilson Mill Dam's new fish ladder is getting quite a workout from the hickory shad. The ladder will open up about 20 miles of the Harford County creek to spawning by the shad and herring. DNR biologist Jackie Fary is tallying the climbers, and we'll report the success rate in a later column.
Wally Vait at On the Fly in Monkton said the water temperature is rising on the Gunpowder, and the Hendriksons have started coming off the water. Despite recent rains, the river remains low.
Over on Morgan Run, the water temperature dropped to the mid 40s, and the weekend might be good for dry flies, say the guys at Angler's Hollow in Westminster. The trout are taking to a slightly moving fly rather than a dead-drifted one.
The white perch are schooling in the upper parts of the Rocky Gorge and Tridelphia reservoirs.
So why are you still inside?