The red lights on the alarm clock flashed 1:58am I should have been sleeping, but the anticipation for my 3:30am wake-up had me on edge. Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Shore, the Manor at Schraders is an iconic plantation style estate offering wing shooting, hunting, and fishing opportunities.
As I settled into my balcony view room, a plush king size bed summoned. As I lay there, I couldn't help but feel the history of the Manor. All 11 bedrooms, carry the name of a previous owner, offering a glimpse into this Victorian Manor's past life. The three-story Manor House provides an atmosphere of casual elegance and includes a library, living room, kitchen, dining room, sitting room, screened porch and a wide selection of comfortable bedrooms, each with its own private bath.
Thanks to Trish Boone & Andrew Farrow, I was here to hopefully harvest my first Eastern Turkey; a milestone I had been working towards for a few years.
The combination of the nerves and the midnight hour made donuts and Sprite at 4:30am the perfect pre-hunt breakfast. 4:45am, Andrew pulled up in the truck, it was go-time!
A quick drive to the back of the property near the Sporting Clays course, we parked the truck and gathered our gear. Walking in the woods before the world wakes up is a serial experience every time. For those 5 minutes during the walk everything is quiet, only the sounds of Andrew and I's footstep as we headed toward the blind. Andrew had been in this spot last night, he knew there was an older bird roosted in the corner. The plan, wait for the woods to slowly wake up, then draw him in. We were all settled in, facing a logging road next to a large pond. Just before daybreak, we heard the first turkey wakeup off in the distance. Andrew called to the bird, no response. He called to the turkey again, again nothing in return. The bird we were after, suddenly had shut up.
He and the rest of the woods. After what seemed like hours, Andrew decided it was time to go find a bird, on the carpet. He was confident they were in the woods and if they wouldn't come to us, we would go to them.
So back to the truck and off to the next farm we went.
This time, we parked on a sand logging road near the quarry. Time to walk, as we made our way into the woods, there were signs of birds all over the sand. Fresh tracks lay insight but no audible sounds anywhere.
A quick set up of the blind, several calls and still no answer. If the birds were there, they were not answering us. Clucks, yelps, purrs, gobbles, any call Andrew made, was not being returned. Maybe it was a combination of the heat or the light wind, but these birds were locked up. With time ticking down, we packed up once again an headed back toward the truck.
Onto the third and final farm. Time for boots on the ground, walk a bit, sit a bit, call a few times, and repeat. That was the game plan for close to 2 hours, working our way through the farm. After a unanimous decision to try the swamp, "that just looked like where they would live", to the swamp we went. As we sat down at the base of a large tree and settled in, our spirits were lifted. Laughing and sharing commentary back and forth about Whitetail season. A text came in on my phone around 10:40am, from a mutual friend asking how the hunt was going. Just then Andrew threw out a Hail Mary on the glass call... The call you save when you really need to sweet talk them.
And just like that, things escalated very quickly. The first real gobble we heard all day came from the right! Andrew quickly instructed "get ready, gun up", as he saw two Jakes working in towards us on a string. 50 yards, 40 yards, 30 yards, 25 yards, I still couldn't see either bird, I was focused off to the right where the first gobble came from. It was not until they came from around the back of a tree of my left that I had them in my sights.
Seeing only their white heads coming through the brush, Andrew whispered again "get ready...get ready"... then SHOOT.
Without hesitation, the safety was off and the Jake in my sights was flipped backward rolling in the dirt. Three years, multiple states, hours and hours of hunting, it had finally come to this. I had successfully made a connection with my first Eastern Turkey! Three farms, close to four miles walked, and with an hour to spare, Andrew had put me on a beauty of a bird! Time to celebrate! BIRD ON THE GROUND!
With the empty shell in my pocket, we snapped a few quick quick photos and I couldn't stop smiling! I was shaking with excitement and in that moment, I knew exactly why everyone says, "You will be hooked". I was, I wanted more, another bird, another opportunity to shoot. Excitement and adrenaline were running through my body. We headed back toward the truck, bird in hand, to fill out tags.
If you are looking for an incredible experience on the Eastern Shore, Schraders Outdoors is a must! From the first few moments of the hunt to cleaning my first bird, Andrew was fantastic! You will be hard pressed to find another guide who has the same passion for the woods, the birds, and teaching others about hunting. I highly recommend booking a hunt with them this fall!