“Living in Maine means ice fishing remote ponds, hunting black bears, waiting for the moose lottery, hunting grouse in the fall, and my favorite thing—spring turkey hunting!”
– Jesika Lucarelli
She’s a morning person. She loves waking up before the sun and watching the night turn into day.
In Maine, the wild turkey season starts in May. Jesika, now a year-round outdoorsman for Great Mountain Guide Service, started turkey hunting about 10 years ago. Waking up at 3 a.m. is no problem for her. However, sitting perfectly still and quiet is. So, her husband, in an effort to help a new and fidgety hunter, introduced her to the “run and gun” style of hunting. It’s an active, more aggressive style of hunting where the hunter doesn’t remain stationary, but rather moves and changes positions to locate birds and “call” them into their own site.
This approach to filling turkey tags benefited Jesika. In a short period of time, she learned a lot about the behaviors of the wild turkey. She learned how to sound like a wild turkey using various calls and how to have a conversation with the animals on their terms and in their habitat. She soon learned another great way to break into the sport of turkey hunting: Hunting from a ground blind. A blind can help to cover up a hunter’s sounds and movements. Turkeys have great eyesight, so they are likely to spook with even the slightest movement.
Jesika applied much of what she learned during turkey hunting to her moose hunting endeavors.
In Maine, there’s the “moose lottery. The rules are this: Anyone who is interested in hunting a moose in Maine must enter into the Maine Moose Permit Lottery. A hopeful moose hunter must submit an application online at www.maine.gov/ifw. The cost to apply is $15. The state of Maine is divided into 28 different Wildlife Management Districts. So, before applying, you will want to decide where in Maine you want to hunt. A current Maine Big Game Hunting License is required.
Jesika first started applying for the “moose lottery” in 2019. Only two years later, she was selected! As a lucky winner of a Maine moose permit, she was thrilled! The drawing happened on her birthday in June 2021. Then, everything came together that September in WMD #4 when Jesika and her husband called in and took a big bull.
With just the two of them—herself and her husband Jayson Lucarelli, owner/operator and guide at Maine Whitetail Adventures—they bumped down the road in the dark before sunrise. When they arrived at the desired hunting area that morning, their hearts sank when they saw a vehicle. It would be light out soon, and they planned to be in the woods well before first light. This didn’t leave much time to travel to their next spot. When they arrived and finally parked the truck for the day, they were focused. SaysJesika, “Jayson and I have hunted together for as long as we have been together. We can communicate without words. This is a good thing because we would not have been able to hear our words over the sound of our hearts beating in our ears and chests. Excited is an understatement!”
They utilized the same style of “run and gun” for this moose hunt in the same way that they do for turkey hunts. That involves quietly and purposely moving through the woods, stopping often to listen and making an occasional call to mimic the sound of the animal and insert yourself into their conversation, hoping to get a response.
The pair had hiked close to three miles from their truck, listening and calling when they heard the unmistakable sound of a bull moose grunting and raking its antlers. They raked and grunted back. Soon, the moose was engaged. He was fired up and he sounded like a team of horses pounding down through the clearing. He came running up to where they were, only slowing to a stop a few feet from the hunters. Then, the moose turned away and started running in the opposite direction. When they grunted, the moose stopped, and Jesika fired.
Jayson and Jesika skinned, quartered and packed out the moose together. Jesika remembers it this way: “It was a sunny afternoon with a great breeze and it was one of the best days I have ever had in the woods!”
A Maine winter allows for many activities and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and Jeskia cherishes them all. She loves to downhill ski at Sugarloaf in Carrabbassett Valley, Maine. She learned to cross-country ski at Penobscot River Trails near the South Entrance of Baxter State Park. There are many great snowshoe trails and winter hiking options.
Maine also has miles and miles of groomed snowmobile trails. One of Jesika’s favorite winter activities is ice fishing on remote backcountry lakes and ponds. Jesika recommends, “If you are new to Maine, I suggest that you grab your tip-ups and head to Millinocket Lake to ice fish. There are amazing views of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak at 5,269 ft. Every winter, my guide service Great Mountain Guide Service hosts guests at Carters X-Country Ski in Bethel, Maine. We ski to our off-grid backcountry cabin where we live for three days and two nights of skiing and fat-tire biking.” Great Mountain Guide Service offers clients a variety of guided activities for the summer months, as well.
5 A. M. Light
Summer in Maine means full light by 5 a.m. Jesika spends most of her time on guided hiking excursions on Katahdin and in Baxter State Park. She feels the most successful hikers arrive with a good attitude and a willingness to commit to “leave no trace” principles. That is an established set of principles to maintain minimal human impact to the outdoors and the animal habitat.
When Jesika isn’t hiking, you can find her paddling a canoe or akayak. Great Mountain Guide Service offers a remote backcountry canoe experience on the East Branch of the Penobscot River.
Canoeing is a passion of Jesika’s that she loves to share with others. In fact, her vast experience was fueled by spending close to 10 years as a trip leader for the Maine Outdoor Education Program.
When the busy summer flow winds down, she turns her attention to another passion: Maine black bear hunting. In Maine, they hunt black bears over bait. As registered hunting guides, it’s their responsibility to maintain their bait sites.
Pre-baiting starts at the end of August, which can be hot, having temperatures in the high 80s and above. Pre-baiting sites allow guides to pattern the bears in the area. Trekking into the sites daily helps them gather information that is helpful to their hunters.
Each day starts by filling bait buckets and hiking into the designated bait sites. Jesika notes, “We offer both ground blinds and ladder tree stands to our hunting spots. A hunter should come prepared to sit over their bait for several hours.”
A memorable bear hunt happened early on in her career as a registered hunting guide. A man booked a bear hunt for himself and his wife. He had explained that his wife had been his hunting partner for more than 30 years and that they had hunted many species all over the world. He went on to say that of all the trophies they had collected together over the years, his wife wanted a Maine Black Bear most of all. If the hunt was successful, he said, she planned to have a bear skin rug made for their trophy room.
Just months before their hunt was scheduled, he called to tell the guide service that his beloved wife and hunting partner had passed away. When he arrived in Maine for his hunt, he was grieving but more determined than ever to make her wish a reality. That Friday evening, as Jesika drove out to the bear woods to pick up her client from the afternoon hunt, she couldn’t help but think of how hard he had hunted that week.
“I wanted so badly to send him home with his Maine Black Bear,” she recalls. She turned up the dirt road leading to his stand location and stopped, looking at her watch. She decided to give him a little more time. She pulled her truck up off the road near his stand drop-off and turned off the ignition.
Despite the black flies and the biting mosquitoes, she rolled all the windows down and waited.
Jesika remembers what came next: “Minutes later, I heard the shot, and then a second shot. I was still holding my breath when I got his text: “Bear down. We did it!!” She was honored to be a part of his hunt and the tribute to his wife and hunting partner, so will never forget this experience!
Memories like this will keep her in the Maine woods forever.