I grew up in northern Maine. Hunting and fishing were not uncommon hobbies of girls. After college, diapers and toddlers took precedence over selfish hobbies. Fast forward many years. I found myself divorced, five hours from my childhood home, with two boys, ages 7 and 11, whom I have the great privilege to shape into men. Shortly after my divorce, I realized that my boys were not being provided with the same experiences that I had as a child. For the first time in almost two decades I found myself back in the woods so I could pass on these skills to my two boys.
Trent is proving to be a true outdoorsman. At the ripe age of 10 he pages through outdoor survival manuals and hunting magazines for nightly reading. He builds shelters, designs traps and relishes hunting videos. He dropped his first big game on youth deer day in 2014. It was a 120-yard left-handed shot (he usually shoots right-handed), perfectly placed, which dropped the 115-pound doe where she stood. Trent possesses the patience of a saint and the dedication that is a necessity in this sport.
The hunt of his first turkey, which made it into the Maine state record books, is a day that will never dull its shine in our memories. It was a cool, foggy morning, and our backs were against a big pine. I had let out a few calls, and the boys were thundering back to me. Trent’s arms were getting tired of holding the Remington 11-87 20-gauge in shooting position on his knees. I told him he could rest it across his lap, since I could hear that the turkeys still had some ground to cover before they made their way to us. Our decoys were situated at the crest of one of the knolls in the field, about 15 yards away from our tree.
Then, appearing out of the fog running at a speed that turned it to a blur, a coyote came up over the knoll, grabbed the jake decoy, immediately dropped it to the ground and continued into the woods, no more than 7 yards away from where we sat. It was over in a matter seconds. Trent looked up at me with his bottom lip jutted out just a bit and said he wanted to go home. I was able to help him understand that we were in no danger and we were okay to stay.
After re-setting the decoy, which was now sporting a good-size gouge, we sat for a while longer. Nothing. The coyote must have scared off anything that was in our vicinity.
We stopped home for a quick warm-up with hot cocoa and coffee, and headed to my blind that was set up at the edge of a field behind a friend’s house. By the time we made our way out to our spot, we had heard several gobblers in the distance. We got settled in the blind, and my striker had barely left the slate when we heard a hen call back to us. I was explaining that we were going to try to let her call in the boys for us, and that way we didn’t need to worry about my mediocre calling skills. As I was whispering to him, Trent was watching out the front window of the blind. His face told me something was happening. He barely whispered, “Tom.”
I slowly turned my head to see an enormous mature turkey in beautiful full strut. He was presenting Trent with a picture-perfect shot. “Shoot him now, shoot him now. Shoot him now!” I whispered.
The eternity of three full seconds passed before he let the shotgun roar. The bird dropped. Ecstatic does not even begin to describe the feeling in my body. I was in such a hurry to get to the tom, I tried climbing out the window of the blind. Once I realized that wouldn’t work, I furiously unzipped the door about 8 inches, convinced I could fit through the opening. Dynamics proved otherwise. After finally making a very ungraceful exit from the blind, I made my way to the bird. He was absolutely stunning, but it wasn’t until we were able to get a closer look that we realized the tom had two, full-length beards.
The official score for Trent’s first turkey for the Maine Antler & Skull Trophy Club, Maine state record books and National Wild Turkey Federation Long Beard Society was 76. The bird weighed in at 20.6 pounds. It’s right spur measured 11/16 inches, and its left was at 1 inch. The main beard touched the tape at 94/16 inches, and the extra beard was 8 2/16 inches long.
This day will never lose its excitement. We were incredibly proud to call ourselves hunters.
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