Talking turkey with the Backwoods Crew’s Colin Herlihy
When local pro surfer and Sussex County outdoorsman Colin Herlihy isn’t busy getting barreled somewhere on the Delaware shoreline, he’s often staring down the barrel of a gun somewhere in the Delaware backwoods, hunting whatever is in season.
Herlihy’s favorite hunting season, however, is turkey season, which will remain open through Saturday, May 10, this year.
“Turkey hunting is my favorite, because you are always on the move and they are so smart,” explained the avid outdoorsman, who also hunts ducks, geese and deer. “The difficulty makes it so gratifying to harvest a good bird.”
Not only are turkeys smart, but their excellent eyesight and hearing add to the difficulty. Their only weakness as prey, he noted, is their lack of smell.
“They say, if they could smell, they’d be impossible to hunt,” he described. “Their eyesight is beyond excellent. You have to wear full camo, head to toe, mask and gloves. When they are coming in, you have to sit completely still.”
To find the birds, hunters use turkey calls — which, like calling ducks, is an art form that takes a great deal of practice.
“The three main types of turkey calls are a box call, a slate call and a mouth diaphragm call,” Herlihy said, noting that the diaphragm call is the most difficult. “Turkeys in the spring do a lot of what most hunters call ‘shock gobbling.’ Gobblers often gobble at loud noises. My turkey from last year and this year were called in by my best friend, Paul Daisey — he is a master outdoorsman and can call in any species of wild game.”
While many have never seen a wild turkey in person, according to Herlihy, they are mainly found in woods, swamps and open fields, but have also been spotted in places one wouldn’t expect.
“You’d be surprised. They are everywhere,” he said. “Recently, I saw turkey tracks in the sand on the boardwalk,” he added of a recent visit to check the waves at Indian River Inlet. You will mainly find turkeys in open fields this time of year, when they are in their mating phase — they roost in the evenings in tall trees in or on the edge of a wooded area.”
Despite some considerable differences in hunting turkeys, as opposed to other types of prey, Herlihy’s gun of choice is always the same.
“I use my trusty 870 Remington pump shotgun,” he said. “I use this for all species I hunt. Depending on the game, I will change the barrel, ammunition or choke tube.”
The less-than-month-long turkey hunting season, which began on April 12 for this year, is almost over. According to Herlihy, this season was drastically different from last year, which was considerably warmer.
“This season has been so much different than last season,” he compared. “Last year, it would be 70 degrees at 5:30 in the [morning] and mosquitos out. I went last week, and it was 29 degrees out — so that has been the main difference: the below-average temperatures.”
After a successful hunt, the only thing left to do is eat. Having harvested the bird, Herlihy usually defers to his girlfriend, Lauren Bohager, to come up with the recipe.
“Lauren will soak it in a brine for 24 hours. The next day she’ll rub it with brown sugar, local honey, and let it rest in soy sauce until it’s time to throw it on the grill,” he said of the usual recipe for cooking a bird so large it’s commonly referred to as a “thunder chicken.” “Another simple way is to marinate the breasts overnight in Italian dressing then throw them on the grill.”
To learn more about turkey hunting, or to see videos and photos of Herlihy and the rest of the Backwoods Crew hunting, fishing, surfing and doing pretty much anything else that involves the good old Sussex County outdoors, check out his website, at www.backwoodscrew.com.