Orono siblings bag bookend birds on Youth Turkey Day

Dark and early Saturday morning, youth hunters across the state crawled out of bed, joined their adult mentors, and headed into the woods on Youth Turkey Day.

According to the reports I’ve heard thus far, many of those hunters endured conditions that my dad might have called “a character-building experience.”

If you were like me (snugly huddled in bed at 4 a.m.), reliable sources inform me that it was cold on Saturday morning. It was windy.

And the junior hunters were out there, waiting for their birds.

Some returned home hours later, chilled and empty-handed. Others had more success. And it didn’t take long before proud parents began showing the photos, telling the tales, and (thankfully) contacting their local newspaper.

Connor McCluskey, 13, and his sister, Molly McCluskey, 11, both of Orono, bagged similar "jake" turkeys on Youth Turkey Day while hunting with their father, Tim McCluskey. Connor's bird weighed 14.5 pounds and had a 4-inch beard. Molly's weighed 14 pounds and had a 5-inch beard. Photo courtesy of Tim McCluskey.

Tim McCluskey of Orono was one such happy dad. This year, he took daughter Molly, 11, and son Connor, 13, out to enjoy Youth Turkey Day.

They returned with smiles, turkeys, and a tale they’ll tell for a long time. Here’s some of what Tim McCluskey had to say about the day:

“Getting them both up at 3:30 a.m. made it all worth it!” McCluskey said in an email. “We were set up in our blind by 4:30 at my friend’s dairy farm. The wind was literally howling between 40 and 50 mph all morning. As the sun started to rise, it was spitting snow.”

After sitting until 6:45, McCluskey decided to pick up their two decoys and the blind and move to another location.

“[We] headed for the truck and some warmth. The next field we were going to was occupied, so I took them to option three, which was an old cornfield that our friend owns,” he wrote. “When I drove into the field I saw four heads pop up down near the tree line. I glassed them with my binoculars and saw they were four jakes and a hen.

“We  drove out of the field and got back on the road and drove past the field and pulled over. We went into the woods about 40 yards deep and I put Connor & Molly against a group of cedar trees … no blind or decoys this time … just camo clothes and a call.”

That’s all the siblings would need.

“I set up behind them and started calling. Within two minutes, we could see the turkeys coming through the alder patch that separated the field and the woods. Connor had agreed that Molly would shoot the first bird since she had never shot one and he had got his first two years ago.

“Since the kids were doing great not moving and there were no decoys for the birds to focus on, they started to go away from us to our left. I called again a couple of times and they turned right for the kids,” McCluskey wrote. “They came out behind a clump of trees about 10 yards from us. I whispered to Molly, ‘Take the second one in line’ as the first bird was the hen. She waited for it to step out and when it did, she made a great shot. The jake behind that one immediately fanned out and when he did, Connor dropped him about three or four seconds after Molly’s shot. It was a great one-two punch!

“After making sure their safeties were back on, they both jumped up. Connor congratulated Molly by telling her what a great shot she made. The first thing Molly did, even before taking her mask off was giving her father a big fist-bump!” McCluskey wrote. “‘That was AWESOME!,’ she said as I received her fist-bump.”

McCluskey said the experience was a great one for Connor, Molly and him.

“I was proud of both of them for many reasons, not just for downing their birds, but for not giving up, for being safe and checking their safeties after shooting and for feeling good about their siblings’ success … just a great moment for dad to be part of and witness.”

The postscript: Molly’s bird weighed 14 pounds and had a 5-inch beard. Connor’s turkey weighed 14.5 pounds and had a 4-inch beard.

Congrats to both, and to their proud father.


John Holyoke

About 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 natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.