Alexa Liberatore missed the 1,200 or so trick-or-treaters on one of her favorite holidays because she was gutting out and hauling a deer from the woods.
It was the last animal she needed to get her 2023 grand slam patch — the harvesting of a turkey, moose, bear and deer in the same year.
Liberatore, 17, of Hampden is all about hunting. Dressed in camo, Liberatore laughed at a memory of her father Anthony Liberatore Sr. promising her a new 12-gauge shotgun if she would wear something other than camouflage clothing to participate in a mock trial at school.
This was the first year she could hunt without being accompanied by an adult. It also was her first year with her own driver’s license. That meant Liberatore could hunt at times when her father wasn’t available to go with her.
She had wanted to get her grand slam since she was 7 years old, but the state’s minimum hunting age of 10 wasn’t lifted until Jan. 1, 2016.
“What she has done is pretty awesome. For the past 11 years, she has been enthralled with hunting. She is also an accomplished fur trapper,” Anthony Liberatore Sr. said.
Alexa Liberatore, hunting alone, got her first spring turkey in the same area where she eventually killed her deer that completed her grand slam.
She had put a decoy in front of her as she squatted on the ground. Two Toms ran toward the decoy to challenge it. She picked out the bigger beard and shot, knocking the Tom turkey over. Her gun jammed. The turkey started to run away, but she got her gun unjammed and shot again, finishing the job, she said.
Liberatore used the tail feathers and wings of that turkey to dress up the decoy so she could get the second one on May 9. She kept the fan, wings and spurs from the second one.
Liberatore has shot five bears, but the one that counted toward her grand slam weighed 150-160 pounds.
The Liberatores contacted a cousin who has bear hounds with Great Meadow Guide Service. On Sept. 15, the hounds were on the track of a big bear with a white blaze. A 10-month-old pup in the pack of hounds ran the bear for more than two miles before treeing the animal.
Liberatore’s dad parked the truck and they ran the half mile into the woods, where she shot the bear out of the tree. Anthony Liberatore backpacked it out and Alexa Liberatore skinned the animal. The skin will go to North Rhodes Taxidermy to become a rug.
Liberatore learned on June 10 that she had been drawn in the state’s lottery for a bull moose in Zone 1 for the first week of the hunt. Her dad was the subpermittee.
The Liberatores stayed in a tent camp at a remote campsite on the St. John River in September. On the second day of the hunt, they walked into a herd of cows and suddenly there was a big bull among them.
“It was the fastest my heart has ever been. I had to get calm for the shot,” Liberatore said.
She shot the bull with her .308 Benelli bolt-action rifle from 200 yards. He went sideways about 20 yards, so she shot him twice more before he went down.
Liberatore gutted the bull herself. She ate a piece of its raw heart, and smeared blood on her face in deference to the spirit of the animal.
“I do it because it connects me more with nature and the world we live in. I connect with nature and feed my family,” she said.
She also collected data for a graduate student at the University of Maine. Liberatore plans to study wildlife biology or environmental sciences in college after she graduates from Hampden Academy.
The bull weighed 860 pounds and had a 49-inch rack. It will become a shoulder mount. Liberatore saved the shoulder blades for calling her next moose. She also saved the legs and the jawbone.
Although she hunted the first couple of days of deer season and spooked one under her treestand on opening day, she had no luck. On Halloween, she decided to sit for a couple hours before heading home to help give out candy to trick-or-treaters.
She was just getting ready to leave when she heard crunching and saw a brown blob. It was a kind of piebald doe. She was shaking, trying to get the .308 ready to shoot, but landed a perfect shot at about 20 yards, she said.
The deer ran. Liberatore couldn’t find any blood so she called Susanne Hamilton who brought her big game blood tracking dog Fritzi. The dog made a beeline to the dead deer about 75 yards from where it was shot.
Liberatore had hit the lungs and liver of the deer. She and her friend Maryssa dragged the deer to the car. There was a problem with the scale at the tagging station, but she thought the animal weighed about 100 pounds. She got home at 10:20 p.m., long after trick-or-treaters stopped visiting her house.
Liberatore wants to become a registered Maine guide and is starting a European mount — cleaned skull — taxidermy business.
“There’s a lot to be said for kids who appreciate Maine, respect the animal and are not on their phones,” said Joanna Liberatore, Alexa’s mother.
Joanna Liberatore said she is an animal lover so doesn’t understand hunting in general, but she appreciates her daughter’s respect for the animals and her pride in feeding her family. She has tried almost everything Alexa has harvested, but her favorite is moose meat.
“I am going to hunt for the rest of my life and I can’t wait for the next adventure,” Alexa Liberatore said.