Adam Armenta of Verona told his son Riley, 11, he’d likely spend the rest of his life trying to top the large turkey he shot during a Learn-to-Hunt session before the regular season opened in mid-April.
Riley, a fifth-grader at Sugar Creek in Verona, was being mentored by Ron Drone, while Adam Armenta, also a novice turkey hunter, was mentored by Bill Compty. Adam Armenta was happy for his son so much so he didn’t mind going home with memories but not a prize.
“We both got into a Learn-to-Hunt program being run out of the Dodgeville Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.” Adam said after the hunt.
Here are the specifics of Riley’s bird: The unofficial weight soon after Riley shot it with his 20-gauge shotgun was 30.11 pounds. The weight would have placed the big bird high on the list of heaviest birds recorded for Wisconsin.
“The problem was that the NWTF needs to have a weight from an official scale and it took us until the next day to find someplace to weigh the bird,” Adam said.
After finding an official scale, the weight had dropped to 28.95 pounds. Both spurs were well longer than an inch and the beard was more than 10½ inches.
Given that the bird was special, not only in size but the first bird for Riley, the father and son team agreed to have a full mount done at Outdoor Addiction in Blue Mounds.
Riley remembered, as did his father, the details of a four-hour learning session held at Vortex Optics in Barneveld.
“The instructors and warden went over calls, blinds, shooting positions and shotgun patterning,” Riley explained. “We even got to shoot our guns in the range at Vortex.”
He also remembers the episode of getting up early the morning of the hunt, seeing several birds come toward decoys, the calls his mentor used and shooting at the bird from about 20 yards.
And the lunch and prizes at Governor Dodge State Park stuck in Riley’s mind, too.
Adam Armenta came away with more enthusiasm for turkey hunting, too, having tried several times to call in a bird years prior to the learning session.
“The whole session was sort of like a deer hunting camp, coming back to the park to share experiences and see the birds that were taken,” Adam said. “I can’t wait until this fall when we can hunt turkeys again. We both learned a ton and it was very educational.”
The mounted turkey will be finished in June or July. There’s already a place in the family log home, someplace up in the rafters, in full strut.
Even before school the next week, Riley, with the help of his dad, was able to share some of his experiences with his schoolmates using several forms of social media.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers a number of other Learn-to-Hunt programs, including deer, pheasant and many more. In some cases special permits are issued, as they were for the turkey hunt.
Most of the programs are hosted by chapters of various conservation clubs, in concert with the DNR.
A field warden usually provides a primer on hunter education and safety, similar to the longer program resulting in an education certificate.
The mentor and novice hunter are sitting side by side during the hunt, too.
Jerry Davis can be reached at email@example.com.