“Kids don’t remember their best day of television!” I have to bet the ten young people who were invited to join us for the 2022 Rhode Island Youth Wild Turkey Hunt will remember their outdoor experience for a lifetime!
We witnessed the greatest accomplishment during this hunt with a 130% success rate! All ten of the youth hunters had a great day; thirteen turkeys were harvested and three of the hunters actually bagged a second bird at the request of a landowner. Seven of the aspiring hunters were new to the game and witnessed their very first turkey hunt during this program.
The Rhode Island Youth Turkey Hunt kicked off on Friday night at Addieville East Farm with gun sighting, and a dinner catered by Gotta Q BBQ and sponsored by Big Bear Hunting & Fishing. It was followed by speeches from Terry Gray, RI DEM’s Acting Director, about the RI DEM’s partnership with the Light Foundation, and Josh Beuth, RI Wildlife Enforcement Officer, who gave a safety briefing.
We also formally introduced each of the selected hunters: Pascal Dubuc, Luke Lamson, Avery Lough, Cathryn McQuesten, Ryan Moricas, Ethan Osenkowski, Kaden Osenkowski, Colin Peterson, Steven Steniger, and Brady Scanlon. Being selected for the program was an epic feat, considering the tough competition for slots. We received more than thirty applications from youth all over New England. The 500-word essay topic was “Family, Friends, and Memories: Why Are They Important.”
It was lights out soon after the kick-off wrapped up because there was a 2:45AM wake-up call on Saturday morning! This allowed plenty of time for the mentors and young hunters to fill up on breakfast burritos and coffee, then travel to their designated spot before the turkeys starting flying down from their roosts! By 4:00AM, all the mentors and young people were on their way into the wilderness to enjoy the experience of a lifetime.
Shortly after sunrise, we started hearing the news we were itching to hear! From there, the day started flying by and the young hunters started coming back to Pheasant Ridge Lodge with their harvests. Upon their arrival, we assisted them in tagging and reporting their birds on RI DEM’s website.
The highlight of Saturday was story time with our Co-Founder, Matt Light. He requested to hear each hunter’s story, as each one is unique and a lesson in its very own way. One mentor, Armand, said, “leaders developed right in front of our eyes!” On Friday night, the youth hunters were full of jitters and by the next afternoon they were comfortably telling their turkey tales for all to hear! They are certainly on the path to becoming responsible members of their communities capable of passing on the torch of leadership and achievement to their friends and families.
This hunt was special in another aspect, as well. Past Rhode Island Youth Wild Turkey hunter, Sam Dalti, applied for the hunt, but shared a request we have never received before. He offered to use his video talents to contribute to the overnight camp instead of potentially filling a spot where another aspiring youth hunter could experience turkey hunting for the first time. Sam is already on his way to becoming an avid hunter as he participated in last year’s hunt and is lucky to have many positive role models in his life. His actions serve as proof of leadership, which is what we strive to teach the youth we serve!
We were excited to have Sam join us to provide content along with Bill Desmo and Jesse St. Andre. Many area businesses also graciously stepped up to support the event! A huge thank you goes to our Boss Gobbler Sponsor: DEM of Rhode Island & Rhode Island Fish and Wildlife Department. Big Tom Sponsors: the NWTF Ocean State Fantails & NWTF Rhode Island Chapter, National Level of NWTF, Thompson Center, Addieville East Farms, and Pheasant Ridge Lodge. Full Strut Sponsors: Big Bear Hunting & Fishing, Mossy Oak, and Quaker Boy. Long Beard Sponsors: ALPS Outdoorz, Born and Raised Outdoors, Evolution Gun Works, Hevi-Shot, Sarge Knives, Smith & Wesson, and Pettengill Archery. Gobbler Sponsors: Primos and Woodhaven Calls.
The success of this program would not have been possible without the help of sponsors and committee members, who help execute the plan each year. Our staff and the RI Department of Environmental Management Fish & Wildlife Division lead the committee. It also includes 30 amazing mentors and wonderful volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation! Credit is also due to the private landowners who allow the use of their land for the youth season. It’s a top-notch group of like-minded individuals who go all-in to influence future outdoor enthusiasts!
We are so blessed to have the best of the best influencing our young hunters. A huge thank you to: Dylan Ferreira, John Veale, Paul Morante, Nate Forsythe, Steve Weidel Kyle Murray, Steve Steniger, Josh Beuth, Mike Woods, Thomas Decker, Ei Pease, Jim Tappero, Jason Williams, Douglas Beaudreau, Armand Tetreault, Jennifer Kilburn, Maddie Proulx, Kely Powers, Tyler Alan, Rowland Gravel, Bruce Tessier, Jack O’Brien, Keith Fritze, Scott Travers, Emily George & Bill Desmarais.
Special thanks to the dream team: Dylan Ferreira, Jay Osenkowski. Maddie Proulx, Emily George, and Jenny Kilburn who helped Brian, Brandon, and me plan and coordinate this amazing youth program from the comfort of Ohio! We start planning this event in November and hold many meetings and zoom calls! They were the boots on the ground in Rhode Island and we appreciate all of their help. Now, let’s plan the 3rd annual Rhode Island Youth Turkey Hunt!