RUMFORD – “Got him! Yes! Yee-haw!” yelled 13-year-old Ian Sweetser after shooting a turkey on his first wild turkey hunt.
“Oh, that was great! Wahoo!” he shouted.
At 6:10 a.m. Saturday the shivering Rumford boy, dressed head to toe in camouflage, bagged the 13-pound bird using a borrowed 20-gauge shotgun. It was a special youth day for turkey hunters ages 10 to 15. The season begins for adults on Monday.
Describing the experience, Sweetser said, “It was just, like, cold. My legs felt really cold. I was nervous, like when you’re anxious.”
After the booming on-target shot, he and his equally exuberant stepfather, Peter Orino of Rumford, quickly left their hunting blind on the edge of a clearing.
Orino laughed joyfully at the boy’s success and his own skill at having called in four wild turkeys in just over an hour for Sweetser.
“Wahoo! That’s cool! Good for you, Ian!” Orino said.
“I was laying down, and he whispered, There’s three!’ I said, Is there any beards?’ And he said, Yes!’ Then, BANG!” Orino said, rattling off what it was like inside the blind with his stepson. He didn’t even have time to record it on video.
On youth day, young people can hunt under the supervision of adults. They can take one bearded turkey with a firearm or bow and arrow. That’s why Orino made sure the boy was targeting a male turkey, either a gobbler (an adult) or a jake (a juvenile). Sweetser got a year-old jake.
Orino is vice president of the Mountain Valley Long Beards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He had permission from a Rumford landowner to hunt with the boy.
In early-morning darkness on Saturday, the camouflaged pair hiked in on a turkey-track-littered “highway,” the distinctive footprints visible in brief flashlight glimpses. The temperature was 30 degrees.
The pair set up two turkey decoys and hunkered down in the blind. At 5 a.m., Orino began a series of timed turkey calls using a variety of devices. Woodland birds first answered the clucks, purrs and musical yelps.
Forty-five minutes later, a turkey gobbled from the woods a ways out. Orino had been on his knees calling, because his chair had collapsed. The gobbling continued, then stopped. Minutes passed. Orino kept calling.
“My knees were cramped up, and I said, I think we’ve blown it,’ and laid down, and then he said, They’re right there.’ When he said, Here they come,’ I didn’t know how close they were. I wasn’t even paying attention,” Orino said.
He sat up just when his stepson fired, seeing feathers flying and three fleeing turkeys. Sweetser had let them spread out, so he’d only hit one bird. It was exactly the right thing to do, Orino told him.
“This is so cool, to do it right,” he said. “You have to teach them when they’re young.”
On the way out, with Sweetser carrying the turkey by its legs and Orino lugging the unloaded gun, the pair met another man taking two shotgun-toting, camouflage-clad youths into the woods to begin their hunt.
“This is so cool,” Orino added.