June 21, 2018
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Young hunters filling their turkey tags

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

Ever since the state’s wild turkey season kicked off, it seems, every day has dawned as a turkey hunter’s dream. It has been sunny. It has been warm.

And according to readers, the turkeys have been cooperative.

This morning I’ll share a few tales that readers have passed along. The common theme today: All involve young hunters who have had great success afield.

First, let’s hear from Skyler Gilbert of Brownville, who recently took his son, Zaine Gilbert, hunting in Willimantic. Accompanying the two were Skyler’s brother-in-law, Chad McIntire.

“Me and my 10 year old son, Zaine, went turkey hunting for the first time, [and] my brother-in-law tagged along as he had been the only one with any sort of turkey hunting experience and he was going to be doing the calling,” Skyler Gilbert wrote. “Three weeks prior I had purchased Zaine his first shotgun, a 20-gauge single-shot.”

Skyler explained that Zaine struggled with the gun at first, as he’s quite small for his age.

“We had brought some bird shot the night before and shot a dozen rounds to help with his shooting stance, his aim, etc., but by the end of it, his stance was considerably better, giving him the confidence he needed to pull the trigger,” Skyler Gilbert wrote. “The next morning, we woke up at 4:15, with no hesitation at all from the youngster, hit the field at 4:45 a.m. and set up our decoys and started calling.”

And on Zaine’s first day of hunting, it seemed the turkeys were eager to put on a show.

“Within moments a big tom was gobbling back. We talked to the tom for about an hour before he got spooked by a deer and we gave up,” Skyler Gilbert wrote. “My brother-in-law decided to walk down the runway and saw some turkeys in the distance but had forgotten his binoculars so he came back after them and we all decided to go down and check it out.

“We walked all the way down the runway and saw nothing, checked a couple small fields on the way down and still nothing. On the way back, we saw those turkeys standing right in the middle of the runway, and decided to sneak up to a small knoll where we could hide from their line of sight while we could call, and hopefully get an ambush on them.

“We hit the call and sure enough, made a beeline for us. They walked around the knoll in a perfect setup for Zaine to take his shot I told him ‘Take him whenever you’re ready, bud.’ He got up on one knee, held his breath and fired, knocking his turkey down in one shot [from 19 yards].”

The bird weighed 15 pounds and sported an 8¼-inch beard and ⅝-inch spurs.

“I can say it was quite the rush being the one to coach a young child through it instead of being the one pulling the trigger,” Skyler Gilbert said. “I wouldn’t change that day for anything in the world, and the memories will last a lifetime. Now he tells me he’s hooked and can’t wait to get his second one!”

Wild turkey hunting isn’t allowed statewide yet, but avid hunters from northern Aroostook County often head south to find Wildlife Management Zones where they can hunt.

That was the case for Harold Cyr of Madawaska, who headed to Corinth for the April 27 Youth Turkey Day with his 13-year-old son, Logan.

“We left Madawaska on Friday noon to head to Corinth to do a little scouting and spotted a group of four turkeys before dark in a field that a friend of ours had permission to hunt on and we were there bright and early at 4:15 in the morning on Saturday,” Harold Cyr wrote.

“We began calling just before daybreak and [received] no answers, kept calling and finally after 1½ hours we got our first response,” he wrote.

Those birds were far away, however, and the duo had no luck luring them in over the next two hours of calling.

Then four birds appeared at the end of a field, and worked their way into shooting range.

“I gave Logan the OK to shoot, and we had discussed earlier that if the opportunity presented itself he could take two turkeys,” Harold Cyr wrote. “He shot the first and pumped another shell in the Mossberg 12-gauge and took a shot at the other jake and hit him perfect. I made sure to tell him that that was enough to make sure that another shot wasn’t taken because he had his two birds.”

And finally, I’ll pass along the story of 13-year-old Cassidy Burns of Corinth. She’s the daughter of Deirdre and Arlen Burns, and her grandfather is a hunter who has taken great pleasure in introducing his grandchildren afield over the years.

In these pages, you might have seen several of those hunters, and learned that their proud grandfather, Phil McTigue of Holden, was involved in nearly all of the hunts that we’ve documented here.

Here’s what McTigue had to say about Cassidy’s hunt:

“Yes, we were late getting to our blind,” McTigue wrote. “While we were approaching our turkey blind, Cassidy said that she thought she heard a gobble. We walked approximately another 75 yards and Cassidy suddenly stopped and pointed. I looked up and approximately 90-100 yards [away] there were two toms and four hens crossing the field.

“We immediately jumped into the woods in an attempt to hide and assess our game plan as the turkeys were walking away from us,” McTigue wrote. “Knowing that we could not sneak up on turkeys in the field, Cassidy whispered, ‘Let’s put the decoys on the edge of the field and try calling them in.’

“We quickly crawled on our hands and knees out into the field 10 yards and set the two decoys and returned to hide behind a large rock and some trees,” he wrote. “Cassidy struck the call with a lengthy cutting call. The turkeys immediately stopped, turned around, and looked at us and the decoys. She sounded the cutting call again and the two toms gobbled and then started strutting toward us.

“[Cassidy] displayed a large smile and said, ‘Yes,’ as the birds started toward us. She then started to cluck a few times and the toms kept gobbling and strutting toward the decoys,” he wrote.

Cassidy took it from there, bagging two toms at about 6:30 a.m.

One of the birds weighed 21 pounds and sported a 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. The second weighed 18.5 pounds and had an 8½-inch beard and ¾-inch spurs.

“Cassidy sure demonstrated some quick-thinking hunting skills as well as the [much] needed patience,” McTigue wrote.

John Holyoke may be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 990-8214. Check out his blog at outthere.bangordailynews.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnHolyoke.

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