AUGUSTA — For several years, Thomas Sylvester III has been coming the state capital each spring, his eyes on the top prize in a youth turkey-calling competition.

On Saturday afternoon, the 13-year-old reluctantly skipped the last day of ice fishing season to make another bid in the contest.

The event was part of the State of Maine Sportsman’s Show, happening all weekend at the Augusta Civic Center, which also included seminars on hunting and fishing, exhibits, and other programs.

Along with about 10 other children, Sylvester, who lives in The Forks, went on stage in one of the venue’s conference rooms. There, he performed a series of calls for two judges who were separated from the contestants by a dark curtain.

He scratched the surface of a piece of stone, producing a squawking noise that — to untrained ears — sounded like a barking seal.

He swung a wooden box with a slider on it, mimicking a turkey’s gobble.

He cupped a hand over his mouth and did his best a capella imitation of the portly bird.

The judges were impressed. For his efforts, Sylvester was awarded first place and some prizes: a wooden plaque and another turkey call to add to his arsenal.


“When you did that last yelp at the end, I thought, ‘He’s got it!'” said one of the judges, Ted Nassivera, a maker of turkey calls, after the contest had ended and he was speaking with Sylvester’s family. “That was fantastic.”

“You’re lucky that girl who kicked your butt last year wasn’t here,” joked his father, Thomas Sylvester II.

The turkey call competition was one of several children’s events happening throughout the weekend, according to Becky Morrell, who works for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and helped organize the three-day show at the Augusta Civic Center.

The goal, Morrell said, is to get more children outdoors.

The turkey-call competition has happened for several years and was organized by a couple groups, including Maineiac Outdoors, a video company; and TNS Turkey Calls, Nassivera’s business.

Nassivera, who comes from New York and makes turkey calls with his father, said youth competitions are also a good way for children to improve their hunting skills.

“There’s no better confidence builder than being on stage,” he said.

Though he’s just 13, Sylvester, who won the competition, is already an experienced hunter. He’s killed one turkey and hunted numerous other animals, including coyote, bear and partridge.

He knowledgeably described the situations in which he might use his different calls. If a turkey is far away, he might use a striker — a small rod — to scratch a piece of aluminum, creating a high-pitched sound that travels a longer range. If he had decoys set up, he might produce the gobbling sound to lure nearby fowl.

He was looking forward to using the new call that he won in the competition. It consisted of a wooden box and a sliding mechanism. Its unique feature was a button that would allow him to use it with just one hand, creating less noise.

“He was eying that one,” said his father.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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