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Megan Turcotte: from Lowcountry girl to Canada guide

By Ford Walpole

 

Just two rookies in God's greatest classroom (Megan Turcotte and Ziggy) PHOTO BY THOMAS GILPIN

When Megan Turcotte was growing up in Beaufort, she enjoyed the Lowcountry outdoors, but she did not begin hunting passionately until college. She earned a degree in equine business from Clemson and during that time, as she puts it, “I just happened to find myself in a group of friends who lived and breathed the outdoors, and I reckon it was contagious!”

            While living in the Midlands of South Carolina, Megan hunted in Orangeburg County, where she harvested her first white-tailed buck and wild turkey along with many doves, quail, and ducks. She relays her early hunting memories:  “My dad and I would often go quail hunting and I remember one morning in particular:  We were out near Allendale, and it snowed while we were hunting. We also took an annual quail hunting trip to Clinton. On one occasion, I brought my young German shorthaired pointer with me. It was her first season in the field, and I still remember that first quail we pointed and shot together,” she recalls.

“I can still see exactly how that first Tom looked as he strutted over the top of that knoll in those pines before I claimed victory, and I remember the nervous excitement I felt my first morning in a duck blind. Even now, I still get that same feeling when ducks start to work!”

Megan’s passion for the outdoors inspired a small business endeavor — Redy or Knot Fish Co. After buying a small skiff, she wanted to provide her new craft with a name and logo. After 50 drafts, she settled on the final logo. Friends encouraged her to develop an outdoors apparel line boasting the logo, and Brian Carroll of Marine Marketing helped “bring it all to life,” she says.

“The Redy or Knot logo is a play on words and together makes the shape of a redfish,” Megan explains. “To me, it is what the logo embodies that makes it unique in my eyes. Fishing has always given me those happy-place vibes, and when I see this logo, I am reminded of so many memories, and just how far I have come, and all that I have learned along the way.” On her Shopify website, redyorknot.com, Megan currently offers shirts and hats that showcase the logo. She plans to add shorts, additional types of hats, and cotton t-shirts to the line.

Since graduating from Clemson, Turcotte has “worked a wide array of positions at various equestrian centers around the Lowcountry and Midlands.” This summer, before heading to Canada, she was working as a groom at Brays Island.

Her boyfriend, Thomas Gilpin, is a co-owner of Ole Dog Outfitters which he describes as “a waterfowl outfit in Canada that offers three and four-day all-inclusive duck and goose hunts.” Thomas invited Megan to join him in Alberta for this season.

Megan explains her philosophy behind embracing the Canada trip. “If you can make it happen, and if it means something to you — especially if it is a dream of yours — do everything in your power to make it happen. Trust me; I know it’s not always that simple, but I knew I would regret not pursuing this opportunity. I talked to the gal in our HR department at Bray’s about going to Canada and what she said was so simple but are words I now remind myself of every day — ‘Life is meant to be lived!’”


Megan Turcotte and Ziggy retrieving birds in Alberta, Canada. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN TURCOTTE

Of course, spending the waterfowl season in Canada presented some logistical challenges. Fortunately, Brays Island offered Megan employment upon her return home. She also needed to secure long-term boarding for her dogs, which her parents agreed to provide. “Balancing everything is a delicate dance,” she admits. “There is a two-hour time difference between here and home. By the time we wrap up the morning hunt and get cleaned up, it is about midafternoon at home. I usually have a couple of hours of downtime before our afternoon scout, so this is when I can make phone calls and work on Redy or Knot,” she says.

Turcotte arrived in Canada at the end of August, and she remained there until the middle of December. She describes her role with Ole Dog Outfitters as “jack of all trades and master of none.” She takes us through a typical day:  “Right now, the day starts between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Each day, I either help with a hunt or help scout. Hunts wrap up around 10:00 a.m. or sooner if limits are filled.

“Clients head back to the lodge where all of us (whether we helped with the hunt or scouted) meet them for brunch. From there until around 1:00 p.m., we clean the birds from the morning hunt and plan the afternoon hunt — if clients will be hunting again,” Megan says. “Then, there are usually a couple hours of downtime for a nap or errands. By three or four o’clock, you’re back out the door to either help with the hunt or scout. By dark, we are all headed back and meet with the clients at the lodge for supper at around 8:00 p.m. We are usually back home for the night by 9:00 p.m.”


A successful harvest with Ole Dog Outfitters in Alberta, Canada. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN TURCOTTE

Megan describes her companion Ziggy, a 16-month-old black Labrador retriever, as her fellow rookie in Alberta. “On his way here, Thomas picked him up from Adam Campbell at Campbell’s Hillside Kennels. While Ziggy technically belongs to Thomas, I have most definitely hijacked him this season!” she laughs.

She credits Campbell for the young dog’s fine training. “Ziggy marks birds well, will stop on a whistle and can be cast left and right. He has a long way to go, but it has been fun watching him gain confidence and improve with each hunt. You’ll see him watch birds come into the spread and start working, and you can hear his tail wagging in his blind. Ziggy’s excitement truly cracks me up!” she says.

“Canada is nothing short of stunning!” Turcotte declares as she describes the natural beauty of Alberta. “The sunrises and sunsets are unreal! They often remind me of the beautiful sunsets we have in the Lowcountry. There is an abundance of farmland spread across rolling hills, and the primary crops are barley, peas and canola. The water in the rivers and creeks is clear as can be. Here, you can witness summer turn to fall, as the leaves turn from green to vibrant yellow, red and orange. There are nature trails everywhere inviting you to enjoy the outdoors.”


A breathtaking sky for waterfowlers in Alberta, Canada. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN TURCOTTE

When asked if being a woman in the outdoors world presents any challenges, Megan replies: “Yes — clothing! I think my wardrobe consists of more men’s clothes than women’s, but I hope that will continue to change with time, and we’ll see more options for women. “In all honesty, I am probably my biggest challenge,” she continues. “So many of my friends have been hunting since they were old enough to carry a gun. I started so much later in life that I sometimes feel like I am trying to play catch-up. I often have to remind myself that everyone’s journey is different, and that’s okay! I think it is great to see more and more women enjoying the outdoors. The best part about being a woman in the outdoors is the support that we provide each other. I feel like we’re all each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”

The Canadian hunting experience will not be a one-time experience for Megan. “I plan to return again next fall for a few months in the same capacity,” she says. “I honestly enjoy not having a ‘specific’ role because I feel I get to learn about every aspect of the industry.” When she wraps up in Alberta, Turcotte will not head directly home. “I am very fortunate in that I will be able to pursue waterfowl across various states over the next few months. That journey will wrap up in Arkansas in March with snow geese. I have one fishing trip planned and then it will be time to head home for turkey season!”

Megan Turcotte’s outdoors bucket list includes becoming proficient at fly fishing and completing a single-season turkey hunting grand slam. In considering the intangible impact outdoor sporting pursuits have had on her, she says:  “For me, the outdoors have always been the place where I feel the most at peace. It is where I self-reflect and take inventory on my mental health and well-being. I feel closest to God when I am out enjoying his creation. After all, it is impossible not to see God’s hand in all that surrounds me — whether I am on the water back home in the Lowcountry or 2,000 miles away in a Canadian dry field!”

 

Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at fordwalpole@gmail.com.

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