The Sportsman’s Corner: Petersham Gun Club Youth Turkey Hunt festivities

  • Kalina Dyer with her 17-pound adult gobbler harvested in Barre. While this was her first year she was able to participate in the Massachusetts Youth Turkey Hunt, she had been fortunate to hunt neighboring states and harvested her first turkey at the age of 8. Contributed photo

  • Dave Dyer helps his daughter, Kalina, re-assemble the primary tail feathers for the fan mount. Contributed photo

  • Participants in the 2021 Youth Turkey Hunt are (front row) Kyler Leslie, 9; Ryker Leslie, 6; Daniel LaPlante, 7; Michael LaPlant, 12. Back row: Alex Olson, 14; Kalina Dyer, 13; Cassy Olson, 17; Jeffrey LaPlante, 15. Contributed photo

Published: 4/29/2021 1:23:53 PM
Modified: 4/29/2021 7:32:09 PM

Last Saturday, the Youth Turkey Hunt was held across the state. In Massachusetts, the youth turkey hunt program is open to minors 12 to 17 years of age and includes a turkey hunt seminar and a mentored turkey hunt. To participate, the youth must graduate from a Basic Hunter Education course before the day of the hunt, complete the mandatory youth turkey online seminar and field day before the hunt, and be accompanied by an adult mentor (18 years of age or older) who holds a Massachusetts hunting license and turkey permit. All hunting laws apply. If the youth participant is 15 years of age or older and they wish to hunt with a shotgun, they must have a valid Massachusetts firearms license. In 2020, youth hunters were able to bag 73 turkeys.

A required two-hour online seminar is taught through Zoom. All new youth participants were required to complete Part 1, the online class, prior to completing Part 2, the in-person field day. There were two options. The first option for the youth was the in-person field day. Held at participating clubs, field days were hands-on learning stations taught 100 percent outdoors. Consistent with guidance provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in-person classes included additional mandatory safety precautions to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. The second option was the online field day. Youth preferring to participate in an online course attended and completed the online field day. This session included both written content and videos on the same three learning stations taught during the in-person field day. Attendees also needed to have access to a range and practice shooting. Once they completed the online training, they filled out an online affidavit affirming that they reviewed all online content and practiced at the range. Hunting hours for the youth turkey day are half-hour before sunrise until 5 p.m., and youth turkey permits are valid not only for the day of the mentored youth turkey hunt, but also for the spring and fall turkey seasons.

The location locally for the youth turkey seminar has been the Barre Sportsman’s Club since the inception of the program, and again this year local youths took the seminar at the club. This writer has great memories of attending the seminar at the Barre club with my nephew Jared Roche. The class and the shooting were great. We also were able to take a nice jake on Youth Day, so it was all good. Rick French of Phillipston was a leader in that program when it started and continues to be a key volunteer today. This year, six young people participated at the Barre Sportsman’s Club.

The Petersham Gun Club has stepped up over the years to add to the experience of the young hunters both in conjunction with the Youth Turkey Hunt and also the Youth Deer Hunt. The club always provides some special activities for the youth hunters. The club has a rich history in recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters, shooters and anglers being active with both Massachusetts youth hunts from day one. Member Dave Dyer started as a youth turkey hunt mentor years before his own kids were old enough to participate. Volunteers like Dave and Pepper Cooley would spend several days teaching new hunters about scouting, meeting them and their bleary-eyed parents at 4:30 a.m. to learn how to use an owl hooter to locate roosted turkeys. Dave’s wife, Sasha, is the club secretary of the Petersham Gun Club. Her official role is to keep track of membership but her passion is organizing and running activities and events that bring women and kids into a sport she is passionate about. Two PGC members, Kalina Ellsworth and Alex Olsen, were part of the Barre seminar.

The Petersham club also annually hosts youth deer hunters, providing food, prizes and kinship along with awarding a shoulder mount to the largest deer taken on Youth Day. That is made possible by a generous donation of the taxidermy services by Steve Tucko of AJ’s Taxidermy. Steve’s passion for introducing young people to hunting carries over to the turkey season as well. This year, a Tail Mounting Seminar was planned for the day after the youth hunt. With the help of volunteers, the turkey tail mounting seminar was a huge success with eight young hunters, Kyler Leslie, Ryker Leslie, Daniel LaPlant, Michael LaPlante, Alex Olsen, Cassy Olsen, Kalina Dyer and Jeffrey LaPlant attending and learning how to preserve their turkey tail fan to provide a lasting memento of their special day afield. Included in the class were successful Massachusetts Youth Hunt hunters, some who participated in the Vermont Youth Hunt, and some who were just learning on tails donated by Sasha Dyer.

Like other local clubs, the Petersham Gun Club is so much more than most people imagine. Club events are family-oriented, and the welcoming environment makes learning and socializing easy. The Petersham club has a top-notch sporting clays course, a trap field, and excellent archery facilities including a 3-D course and annual competition. As so many people are rediscovering the outdoors, you need to consider joining clubs like the PGC, the Orange Gun and the Pequoig Bowmen.

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