Music lovers flock to concerts to enjoy their favorite artists. For turkey hunters, a turkey calling contest is indeed their concert, a time when turkey calling skills are displayed at such a degree as to be the turkey hunters' concerts.
As the emcee of the recent calling contest at the Jaffa outdoor show, I got to watch the contestants from the front while most of the audience is observing from behind.
The judges are behind a heavy drape so that they can hear the calls but cannot see the callers.
There is a significant reason for making sure judges cannot see competing callers. First, obviously, is so judges will not be biased toward friends and buddies. But most entertaining are the visual shows the callers perform as they compete. Some are shaking from fear so badly they can hardly hold the striker to the slate call and get it to caress the call correctly.
Others strut around the floor as they call, keeping rhythm straight by patting their legs or shaking their fingers in the proper calling cadence. Others bend and stoop and pretend to be a flying turkey and so much body language is employed by callers that the audience is royally entertained.
It wouldn't be good for judges to be able to see such performances; judges must judge on sound alone.
Anyhow, a calling contest is a great show and one can learn a great deal by listening to the almost-perfect renditions of the various turkey sounds that the contestants make.
In the woods, while actually hunting, I promise you no turkey hunter, especially these callers, who are all good turkey hunters, are going through all these bodily di-dos while trying to entice a gobbler to come to them instead of to the real hen. The primary rule of turkey hunting is that all movements in the woods must be kept to an absolute minimum since movement is the chief thing that will scare a gobbler.
The best callers may put on a lively show while competing in a contest but when competing in the woods for the attention of a lusty gobbler, he sits rigidly still, while wafting his calls.
Results of the contests are always interesting. Claysburg champion caller Ben Chamberlain who has won more contests than I can name here, came in third place in the Senior Friction contest and his own young son, Dakota Chamberlain, bested him by placing second in that division.
But then, you know he has been there for Dakota and his other son, Corey, who has also won many junior division contests. He's been a teacher and coach.
When I saw John Egolf of Schellsburg was entered in the contest, I knew the competition was going to be tough in that senior division. It was. Egolf took first place.
Remember that it is time to apply for the second spring gobbler license so don't neglect that detail. Also, if this is to be your first hunting season, you must complete and pass the Hunter Training course before spring.
With the junior spring gobbler season set for April 21, and the general spring gobbler season opening on April 28, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe is reminding all first-time license buyers to make plans to attend a Hunter-Trapper Education course now. To register for a course in your area, visit the Game Commission website www.pgc.state.pa.us.
One neat event occurred at the booth of the Allegheny Mountain Local Chapter event.
As a number of us were busy registering callers for the contest and handing out various literature about the projects and programs of the chapter, we were also selling raffle tickets to a couple fine hunting firearms.
A dear senior citizen lady came strolling by and as we encouraged her to buy a couple tickets to help our habitat project, she began to tell us that she often walks around in a patch of woods behind her house and remarked about all the wild turkeys she sees there. She said she had no idea how to hunt them so I promised her that if she bought a ticket and won a firearm, I would personally take her turkey hunting this spring and show her the ropes.
Out of the hundreds and hundreds of tickets sold, what are the chances of her ticket being the one pulled? You guessed it! She won - a Remington 870 Super Mag. Hey, we all celebrated that one.
So I called her and told her she would have to get a hunting license and take the hunter safety course if she wants to hunt. If she doesn't want to actually harvest a bird, I invited her to accompany me one day as I hunt for the birds.
She expressed a bit of reserve because she was "too old" to start hunting. It turned out, however, that I am older than she is so stay tuned for what happens on this adventure.