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There are tons of reasons to visit the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual convention, held every February in Nashville. Grand-champion calling contests, world-class taxidermy, vendors hawking everything from decoys to designer camo to wing-bone jewelry. But the custom-call competition is a must-see. Equal parts folkcraft, artistic impression, and utility, these calls run the gamut from the inspired to the bizarre. Here are some of our favorites from this year’s competition.
This scratch call, made by Eric Rice from Minneapolis, is crafted from American holly, ebony, and macadamia wood and sits in a fox-skull stand.
Another scratch call from Minnesota’s Eric Rice, this piece features a gobbler head embossed into copper and set in the call’s cherry wood, framed with ebony inlays. The base is an elk-antler burl with the image of a strutting gobbler hand-burned into the bone.
One of the show’s most ornate entries, this box call was made by John Parker of Trenton, Ohio and won a pair of high-profile awards: runner-up in the Best of Class category and first place in the carved-and-painted category. Parker’s call features a fox running across the lid, above a hen turkey on her nest. Imagine taking this call into the woods on a drippy April morning.
This slate call might be confused with the real thing. Steve Stortz of Delta, Colorado carved and hand-painted this turtle from basswood.
Eric Rice of Minneapolis has had a busy off-season. Entitled “Never Forget,” this presentation box call is a tribute to World War II veterans. Artwork on the call depicts raising the flag at Iwo Jima, paratroopers in action, and other scenes of battle. The call is nestled in vintage artillery shells.
Saint Marys, Penn., call maker Gregg Guthridge took home a blue ribbon and second place in the Best of Class with this remarkable owl hooter. The working call is crafted from Honduras red heart and basswood and features a carved basketweave design with a relief-carved barred owl. The carved owl on top is a southwestern pygmy owl and the scrimshawed scene is rendered in pre-ban elephant ivory.
Another remarkable original by Pennsylvania’s Gregg Guthridge, this crow call might easily be mistaken for a libation. The award-winning call features a basswood-carved bottle in the exact dimensions of a vintage Old Crow bourbon bottle. The mouthpiece is fitted in the mouth of the bottle, and when blown, the sound resonates from the base of the call. The cap has a scrimshaw turkey feather etched into pre-ban elephant ivory. The Old Crow label was woodburned and painted and the carved bottle that serves as the stand features the NWTF logo rendered in crushed turquoise.
Joel Littlejohn of Selmer, Tennessee saluted his native state with this carved and painted box call.
Have a little faith! Tommy Sears of Lily, Kentucky entered this slate call. The striker is stored in the cross.
Don and Sarah Clark of Sheridan, Arkansas teamed up to create this scene of a hunter leaned up against a dead tree and a turkey sneaking up behind him. Check out the carved leaves in the material of this working box call.

Here are some of our favorite calls from this year’s National Wild Turkey Federation’s custom-call competition.