Westport youth R.J. King was chasing longbeards with his father, Rob, even before he could walk.
When Rob separated from his wife in the mid-1990s, he became R.J.'s full-time caregiver. That meant if he wanted to hunt, R.J. would be along in tow.
And, Rob wasn't about to give up the woods.
"I would carry him in a backpack carrier," Rob recalled. "He learned a lot about the woods at a very young age."
So, it was only fitting R.J. carried on the family tradition by bagging his first Tom during opening weekend of the spring turkey season - with his dad at the call.
"It felt awesome," 12-year-old R.J. said. "The bird looked huge on the ground."
And, indeed it wasn't small. The turkey weighed 28 pounds, had a 10-and-one-half-inch beard and one-inch spurs. A trophy by any turkey hunter's standard.
R.J. took the bird early in the morning May 3. It was a warmer than average day for early spring, R.J. recalled, as he and Rob set up and began using a crow call to entice an answer.
After awhile, the duo decided to move. The next location would prove key as Rob expertly lured the big Tom to within a few yards of his decoys with a hen call and R.J. dropped him at 10 yards.
"When he answered, he was a lot closer than we expected," R.J. said. "He was probably only 30 or 40 yards out, and dad had him to me in less than 5 minutes."
The entire hunt was over by 6:45 a.m.
The following weekend, Rob repeated the process, calling in another Tom and 14-year-old Cooper Sayward had his first longbeard as well. Cooper's bird weighed 20 pounds, had three-quarter-inch spurs and a 10-inch beard.
For Rob, the satisfaction lies in passing on his love of the hunt.
"R.J. was so happy when he got the bird that he just kept hugging me. I love when a kid gets a chance to do this stuff."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
E-town fishing derby results
The Elizabethtown Memorial Day fishing derby was again a big hit as dozens of youngsters turned out to land the big one. The overall winner with the largest catch - a 17.5-inch rainbow trout - was 9-year-old Jake Rider. Other winners included:
• Ages 0-5: Trinity Ashe, age 5, largest fish; Gabriel Gentels, age 5, most points; Sawyer Moulton, age 4, most fish and Hunter Soper, age 3, smallest fish.
• Ages 6-10: Jake Rider, age 9, largest fish; Edward Newphew, age 7, most points; Rebecca Davis, age 6, most fish and Kayla Helsel, age 10, smallest fish.
• Ages 11-15: Cora Adams, age 11, largest fish; Kearstin Ashline, age 14, most points; Ashley Martin, age 14, most fish and William Tomkins, age 11, smallest fish.
Organizer Joe Martin said the town of Elizabethtown would like to thank all the people and organizations who made the event possible, including the Essex County Fish Hatchery, Stewart's, Grand Union, the Elizabethtown Fish and Game Club, the Elizabethtown Fire Department, Hathaway Brothers and Adirondack Outfitters.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.