It has been nearly two weeks since the state sponsored its annual Youth Turkey Day and plenty of youngsters undoubtedly added another page to their mental outdoor scrapbooks with successful hunts.
This morning, let’s meet three of them.
Three boys. Three hunts. Three turkeys taken. And (not surprisingly) three adult relatives who also ended up with memories that’ll last forever.
First, take the case of Ben Sipe. Sipe, a 13-year-old from Presque Isle, doesn’t have hunting parents, but they are very supportive of his interest in the sport. And his uncle, guide Don Hazelton of Newport, is more than willing to teach his nephew what he can.
You may remember hearing about Sipe two years ago, the then 11-year-old took a partridge with a bow.
Hazelton checked in with an e-mail this week that proved Sipe has continued to progress as a hunter.
Here’s some of what Hazelton had to say.
“This year in preparation for Youth Day I spent a lot of time scouting. I located some very good turkeys, but two days before Youth Day all the turkeys around here seemed to disappear,” Hazelton wrote, echoing the observations of many veteran hunters.
The duo set up a popup blind and got into position at 4:30 a.m. Despite the early hour, it didn’t take long for Sipe to get ready.
“He was up and dressed and ready to go in about two minutes,” Hazelton wrote.
Not long after they arrived at the blind, several tom turkeys began gobbling.
“That has got to be the most beautiful sound in the world,” Hazelton wrote. “I looked at Ben and as dark as it was, his eyes seemed to be as big as silver dollars.”
The birds eventually flew down and responded to a call, but approached the blind from the wrong side, as far as Hazelton and Sipe were concerned.
Sipe was on the window away from the birds, and the pair had to silently scramble to switch positions.
“We managed to do all that without scaring the turkeys off,” Hazelton said. “Ben did a super job slowly pointing the shotgun out the window, aiming and shooting.”
Ben’s bird was a mature tom with an eight-inch beard and 3/4-inch spurs.
“Needless to say, there was some hootin’ and hollerin,’ high-fiving and handshaking (in more ways than one) going on,” Hazelton said. “Ben was one happy and proud young hunter. I was one extremely happy and proud uncle.”
The best part of the hunt may have been yet to come, however. After taking the bird to a store in Plymouth to tag it, several local men gathered around the truck to admire the bird.
“One of the guys told Ben he was turkey hunting next week and he wanted to know if Ben would guide him,” Hazelton wrote. “The smile and look of satisfaction on Ben’s face will be etched in my mind forever.”
As well it should. Congratulations to Ben.
And congratulations to Evan Pelkey of Orrington and Sean Tocci of Glenburn. The 12-year-olds teamed up to have an enjoyable hunt in Orrington on opening day.
Pelkey was accompanied by his dad, Donald Pelkey, while Tocci’s “guide” was his grandfather, Gary Grant.
Grant, who is also Donald Pelkey’s brother, said the two groups set up not too far from each other early in the morning.
Evan Pelkey bagged his bird first, at about 5:40 a.m. After waiting for a bit, Tocci and Grant walked over to see how the hunt had gone.
Donald Pelkey then instructed Tocci to conceal himself in a stand of trees, and proceeded to call in a jake that the youngster shot … with an audience.
“Sean couldn’t believe it,” Grant said. “He was just tickled pink. And when Sean shot his, Evan came running out of the bushes with his thumbs up and a big smile on his face.”
Evan Pelkey’s bird weighed 20.5 pounds, while Tocci’s was a 16.1-pounder.
Over the years, their memories will carry much more weight than that.
State video heads to YouTube
Bill Pierce of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has built a well-deserved reputation for thinking up new ways to promote his department.
A couple weeks ago the public relations specialist told me about a new project he had launched, in which the state’s turkey hunters would be encouraged to log into one of the hottest Web sites in the nation.
Earlier this week Pierce called and said the project had been a huge hit.
“We made a flash video and put it on YouTube and did a mass e-mail to all of our electronic turkey permit applicants,” Pierce explained.
Once on the Web site, which features user-submitted videos, Maine’s turkey hunters (and anyone else who chose to watch) received a refresher course on hunting, with emphasis on two things state wildlife officials stress.
“We gave them a quick landowner relations and safety video to watch, and connected them to our turkey hunter survey and also our turkey hunting pages on our Web site,” Pierce said. “We’ve gotten a great response from it.”
Pierce said the DIF&W will likely use the technology to offer updates with safety videos during other hunting seasons.
Anyone interested in checking out the video can go to YouTube and search for “Maine turkey hunting video.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.