SWAN ISLAND — Drew and Cole Pengelly, 9- and 6-year-old brothers from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, were drawn to the Maine woods even before they came here with their parents this week as part of their summer vacation.

They watch the television show “North Woods Law” about the Maine Warden Service, and on Saturday, they took a ferry across the Kennebec River to learn more about the backcountry activities that feature so prominently in that series.

The Pengelly family went to Swan Island for a field day organized by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Participants notched arrows and sent them flying at three dimensional replicas of turkeys, raccoons and bears. They shot air rifles at targets, paddled canoes and kayaks, learned about traditional animal trapping techniques and participated in a variety of other activities.

Families rotated through each event during the sunny day.

“I hit the raccoon in the thigh,” Cole Pengelly said of his success on the archery range.


His brother, Drew, wore a Maine Warden Service baseball cap and a T-shirt identifying himself as a “Junior Game Warden” — both items he owned before coming to Maine, noted his mother, Cathy Pengelly.

The family had just finished a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs and were preparing to participate in the paddling activity. They were standing near the trapping demonstrations, and Cathy marveled at the size of a red fox pelt that was hanging among beavers, weasels, raccoons and other mammals.

The Junior Maine Warden agreed, exclaiming, “You could make so many bowls of stew with that fox!”

Nelson Frost, a Brunswick resident, led some of the trapping sessions. He’s an officer with the Maine Trapping Association, he said, and during his sessions with the kids and adults, he spoke about the importance of trapping to wildlife conservation efforts.

He also showed off the different pelts and a set of steel traps.

The tracking, hunting and identification of wildlife was a running theme during the field day.


Another activity was a scavenger hunt across the entire island, in which kids had to locate various natural elements including a beaver dam, an owl pellet and evidence of a woodpecker.

A group of bird hunters had brought their dogs to the island — German shorthaired pointers — and were demonstrating how the dogs can retrieve fallen fowl. They threw floating dummies into the river, then had the dogs dive in and retrieve the fake birds.

“If we’re going to shoot something, it needs to be back so we can have it for dinner,” said Jason Carter, a member of the organization that was leading the demonstrations, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.

The group also has real, dead ducks that it uses exclusively for training purposes, Carter said.

He brought one of those training birds to Swan Island on Saturday and, as part of his demonstrations, took it into the woods before letting the dogs chase after its scent.

Jeff Gray, of Gardiner, came to the field day with two grandsons, Kian and Raef Alves, as well as his son, Jeremy Gray (uncle to Kian and Raef).


“It’s a guys day,” said Jeff.

They were eating lunch and had already participated in the paddling, archery and dog demonstrations, as well as an orienteering class.

Kian said he enjoyed the paddling and found the dog demo “very interesting.”

It was their first time on Swan Island, and Jeff and Jerry both found it so pleasant that they were considering coming back to go camping with more of their family members, they said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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