Turkey Calling Contest Season

It's winter. Don't we know it! Spring turkey seasons are still a month away for some (Hawaii opens March 1); it's even longer for many others. Right now though, the day after Super Bowl Sunday (congratulations Packers fans), there's another competition underway: turkey calling on the stage.

All of this culminates this month at the National Wild Turkey Federation's annual convention, and the Grand Nationals: the Super Bowl of turkey calling. For now though, state calling championships dominate the wild turkey world.

Strut Zone caught up with Josh Grossenbacher who just won the Pennsylvania State Turkey Calling Championship in Bloomsburg (a.k.a. the Jerry Zimmerman Memorial event). Top spot earned him $500, and a three-foot-tall trophy, pictured here with Grossenbacher.
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Strut Zone:** What's the difference between calling real turkeys while hunting, and for judges from the stage?

Josh Grossenbacher: The difference between calling on stage and working wild turkeys is huge! When calling to wild turkeys you can get away with mistakes. A turkey won't dock any points. They are a lot more forgiving! The tiniest mistake in a contest could easily cost you hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars in prize money. You can definitely call sloppy in the woods but on stage it won't fly!

SZ: What competition calls do you use?

JG: The calls I use on stage are my diaphragm call (the Josh Grossenbacher signature series by Zink Calls). I use it to yelp, cut, cackle, and cluck and purr. I use a two-reed ghost cut to perform kee-kees.

SZ: Do you run the same calls on stage as you do in the turkey woods?

JG: The calls I run in a contest are the EXACT same calls I use in the woods. Most of the time my best competition calls get broke in while I'm chasing turkeys in either the fall or spring. I feel that having that call in your mouth at long periods of time helps to break it in for one and also helps me get more comfortable with it in proper positioning in my mouth.
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SZ:** How can the average turkey caller improve their abilities?

JG: An average caller looking to improve their calling abilities has many options nowadays to help them get better. The first and always most important thing is to listen to real wild turkeys. There is a ton of really good footage on YouTube that can be seen for free. The other option is to purchase an instructional DVD showing all the proper techniques in how to run a mouth call. (Note: Zink Calls's DVD "Turkey Time University, Vol. 1, Mouth Calling Basics" has animated diagrams showing the inside of a mouth, which shows proper call placement, proper air flow and how to produce good turkey sounds.)

Have any of you Strut Zoners ever climbed on the turkey-calling stage? Any of you ever judged a contest? What do you think of this contest calling business anyway? Do you agree with Grossenbacher that the longer you use a diaphragm call the better it sounds?