Turkey calling contests are worth your time

Ben Rogers Lee was to turkey calling and hunting what Vince Lombardi and Johnny Unitas were to football.

For those who can’t remember farther back than Bill Cowher, well, you missed what Lee brought to turkey hunting.

Ben Rogers Lee was from the south and when he came north in the early 2970’s to introduce his calling devices and calls to use while hunting, he created quite a sensation. Northern turkey hunters were just getting into the sport since wild turkeys were just getting established in the north.

One phenomenon Lee pioneered in the north was turkey calling contests and I have loved those events since the first one I ever saw. We’d never heard of a fly down cackle then and diaphragm calls were a new invention back then.

I love turkey calling contests. A bunch of people on a stage trying to imitate the calls of a wild turkey better than the other contestants is a hoot all by itself. It’s sometimes hard to believe the di-dos and body language of turkey calling contestants. Prancing and dancing all over the stage, moving in ways they wouldn’t dare to do in the woods is frankly, just plain entertaining.

The real value of a turkey-calling contest for the observers is the opportunity to hear the various calls being made by those who are the best at it. Attending a contest is another way to spend the time between Christmas and the opening of trout season in April. And there is a good turkey-calling contest coming up in our area.

The Tussey Mountain local chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation is presenting the Alan Keagy Memorial Turkey Calling Classic on Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Claysburg-Kimmel High School Auditorium starting at noon.

Alan Keagy was a Roaring Spring man, an excellent turkey hunter and a long-time worker at various habitat projects, turkey calling contest judge and former president of the Allegheny Mt. Local Chapter, who died recently, suddenly and much too young. Here’s the skinny on the details.

Doors will open at 9 a.m. and all participants must be registered by noon. The contest begins with the Youth, Poults, and Amateur divisions. Senior Open, State Friction and Owl contest begin approximately at 2 p.m. All contestants must be members of the National Wild Turkey Federation since this is a sanctioned contest. The first-place winners in the Senior Open and State Friction categories qualify for the 2011 Grand National calling contest in Nashville.

Note that the amateur Division is open only to those who NEVER won first place in a prior event. I don’t have room here to list all the required calls for each division but if you plan to compete I’d practice the tree call, assembly yelps, kee-kee run, fly-down cackle, purrs and cutting. Also tune up whatever call you think you do best. Some combination of those calls is required in each group.

For pure entertainment, you can’t beat this contest. The owl-calling competition alone is worth the price of admission.

Claysburg’s own Ben Chamberlain, who has won more contests and trophies than I can name here and so have his sons, is organizing the contest. You can contact Ben at 931-4002 or 710-7570 for more information.