Travis Pece helps tag a turkey his daughter, Josie Pece (background) shot on Youth Turkey Day, April 27, 2019, in Orrington. Credit: John Holyoke

ORRINGTON, Maine — Young hunters and their adult mentors did not have to wait until sunrise to figure out that Saturday’s Youth Turkey Day might be a bit soggy. All they had to do was lie awake in bed and listen to the rain pelt the windows and feel the wind shake their homes. But that did not dampen the enthusiasm for those who did head afield in heavy rain and chilly temps.

One reason: Many were going to spend their time hunting in relatively dry ground blinds, rather than sitting out in the open, leaning on a tree and waiting for birds to show up.

“Thank heaven for those covered blinds,” said Travis Pece of Orrington, who stopped by Bob’s Kozy Korner Store with his 14-year-old daughter, Josie, to tag the 18.2-pound bird she shot early Saturday morning. “I was home [Friday night], listening to it rain, and went, ‘Oh, man.’ We’d set [the blind] up yesterday, and luckily I staked it down good, because the wind was howling.”

Even though it was pouring rain, Josie Pece said bailing out on the day of hunting, which is set aside for junior hunters who haven’t reached their 16th birthday, wasn’t an option.

I really just like spending time with [my dad],” she said. “And shooting the gun and shooting a turkey is a thrill.”

That’s a thrill that neither of the Peces take for granted. Travis is a registered Maine guide who often works during the fall, when deer season takes place. And Josie is a busy athlete who participates in softball and basketball. Their conflicting schedules make outings like Saturday’s fairly rare, so the Peces have learned to cherish those opportunities.

“Sports start up in the fall [during deer season], and with all that stuff, we don’t get a chance to hunt together too often,” Travis Pece said. “Her schedule and my schedule don’t match up that well.”

But on Saturday, their schedules matched up perfectly, though they didn’t need much time to fill one tag. Josie’s turkey was the first tagged at Bob’s Kozy Korner, at about 7 a.m.

Credit: Courtesy of Heather Pece

“It definitely didn’t take long. We were sitting there, and he pulled out the slate call,” Josie said.

“Hit it a couple times and he gobbled, and a couple minutes after that he flew in,” her dad said, picking up the narrative.

After that, it was all up to Josie, and she made her shot count.

Turkey season for adult hunters begins Monday. This year’s seasons:

— Wildlife Management Districts 7, 9-29: April 29-June 1, with a season limit of two bearded turkeys per hunter.

— WMD 8: April 29-June 1, with a season limit of one bearded turkey.

— In northern Maine WMDs 1-6, the season is split, with hunters born in odd-numbered years permitted to hunt April 29-May 4 and May 13-18. Those born in even-numbered years may hunt May 6-11 and May 20-25. All hunters can hunt May 27-June 1. The season limit is one bearded turkey per hunter.

The second successful junior hunter of the day to arrive at the Orrington tagging station was Andrew Munroe of Holden, who turned 16 earlier this month but is legally allowed to participate on youth hunting days on his junior license for the rest of the year.

Munroe said there’s never a guarantee that hunters will get to enjoy perfect weather, so he was prepared to deal with the conditions, no matter what they were.

“[Bad weather] goes along with hunting, but we didn’t really think it would be too, too bad,” he said. “We thought it was going to rain, but not that much. But the [being in a] blind is fine.”

Munroe’s mentor was his father, Chris Munroe, who said he was eager to spend a final Youth Turkey Day with Andrew. He did, however, have a few late-night reminders that the weather was going to be pretty harsh.

Credit: John Holyoke

“The wind howling all night woke me up a couple of times, but we never had a second thought. It’s his last year that he can hunt on youth day,” Chris Munroe said. “I figured we’d better get out there. This is his last chance. Next year he’s going to be hunting with the big boys.”

Chris Munroe said that the weather was so bad that even the turkeys were boycotting the day’s events.

“The birds weren’t calling; they weren’t coming to a call. They even looked miserable out there,” he said. You could tell. They were all huddled together with their heads tucked down, not doing what they normally do at this time of year. They were just waiting this weather out.”

The conditions didn’t keep Andrew from taking a 17.6-pound bird, though the duo did have to change tactics when the birds refused to move in his direction.

“I checked my phone and the weather, and it said this stuff wasn’t going to let up until noontime,” Chris Munroe said. “I asked him what he wanted to do. We could wait them out, or we could go after them. “

They went after the birds, sneaking up a hill to a spot where Andrew could get a shot.

The day wasn’t a perfect day in the turkey woods, but Andrew said he was happy to get out hunting again.

“[I always like] just getting up early in the morning before everything gets up. Today wasn’t really the best day for listening to anything,” he said. “[The turkeys] were all sitting in the tree, trying not to get wet. [But] just the thrill of [the hunt is fun].”

John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...