Expert wild turkey callers from across the country will pull out all the stops as they putt, purr and cackle their way to more than $25,000 in cash and prizes at the National Wild Turkey Federation's Grand National Calling Contest Championships, sponsored by Wild Turkey Bourbon.
The championships will be held during the NWTF's 33rd annual Convention and Sport Show at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Feb. 19 to Feb. 22, 2009. After a pressure-packed minute on stage in which contestants must mimic various sounds of a wild turkey, callers will nervously await the final verdict from a panel of judges.
The championships contain multiple divisions, including Senior, Gobbling, Friction, Owl Hooting and the Rare Breed Champion of Champions.
"A year's worth of practice comes down to a one minute performance," said Mark Prudhomme, 2008 NWTF Grand National Owl Hooting Champion. Prudhomme, who also won last year's coveted Team Challenge Calling Championship with his partner Kerry Terrell, added that calling real wild turkeys is actually easier than calling in front of the judges.
"When I'm turkey hunting in the woods, I can make mistakes and still call in a turkey," Prudhomme noted. "But at the Grand Nationals, judges are looking for perfection. Part of the challenge is not just being a great caller, but also figuring out what the judges are expecting and deliver it."
2007 Senior Division Champion Shane Hendershot agreed, noting that it is difficult to recover from mistakes.
"On the TV show American Idol, you might see contestants give a mediocre performance and still squeak by to the next round," said Hendershot. "The NWTF Grand Nationals don't work that way. If you stumble even a bit, you're out of the running."
The Grand Nationals represent only a small portion of what's in store during the NWTF's action-packed weekend in Nashville. The four-acre exhibit hall will be filled with more than 545 exhibit booths full of the latest and greatest gear that hunters will need in their quest for next spring?s gobblers. World-class callmaking and taxidermy competitions, seminars from hunting experts, a special ceremony honoring our veterans, fun and educational activities for youth and much more will also take place.
"Through this year's theme: "The Year of the Volunteer," we will also show our appreciation to the thousands of dedicated volunteers who have made the NWTF the successful organization it is today," noted Michael Waddell, NWTF spokesman. "We'll have something fun for everyone in Nashville this February. Join us for a brand new show in your favorite place!"
The NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation organization that was founded in 1973 and has worked with wildlife agencies to restore wild turkey populations from 1.3 million wild turkeys to nearly 7 million today. Now, NWTF volunteers raise funds and work daily to improve critical wildlife habitat, increase access to public hunting land and introduce new people to the outdoors and hunting.
"Join myself, Michael and tens of thousands of your closest friends for a weekend of fun, camaraderie, patriotism and celebration of the wild turkey and its conservation success," said Brenda Valentine, NWTF spokeswoman.
The NWTF?s Convention and Sport Show will feature award-winning entertainment from country music artists Blake Shelton, Rhett Atkins, Andy Griggs and Daryle Singletary plus comedy and music from entertainer Paul Harris.
Though the NWTF's Convention and Sport Show will offer a variety of activities and entertainment, competitors in the Grand National Calling Championship are coming to town with one thing on their minds - victory. The callers may have a friendly rapport backstage, love to talk turkey hunting and even offer calling tips to each other, but once the competition begins, all bets are off
"I want my title back," said Hendershot. "I'm not coming to Nashville to lose."
But Billy Yargus, the NWTF's 2008 Senior Division Champion, has no intentions of relinquishing the title that took him 10 years to earn. He'll be reaching deep into his bag of tricks in 2009 as he tries to secure back-to-back championships.
"I'm in it to win it," he said. "It's a rush to hoist that championship trophy and feel the respect that comes with it. If you have a NWTF Grand National title under your belt, no one questions that you're the best. It's a big deal."
General admission tickets to the NWTF?s Convention and Sport Show are just $10 per day or $25 for a three-day admission badge. Ticket information for other Convention and Sport Show events is available at http://turkey-shoppe.nwtf.org/convention2009.html .
To register, reserve a hotel room, or get more information about the NWTF?s 33rd annual Convention and Sport Show, visit www.nwtf.org/special_events/convention.html>http://www.nwtf.org/special_events/convention.html http://www.nwtf.org/special_events/convention.html> .
2009 NWTF Convention Sponsors:
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
ATK/Federal Premium Ammunition
Bank of America
Bass Pro Shops
Call Makers and Collectors Association of America
Crescent Cardboard Co., LLC
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
Harrington & Richardson Company
Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
Marlin Firearms Company
Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau
National Band and Tag
O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.
The Outdoor Connection
Realtree Outdoor Products, Inc.
Remington Arms Company, Inc.
South Carolina State Chapter
Tennessee State Chapter
USDA Forest Service
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
Wild Turkey Bourbon
Winchester Division/Olin Corp.
For more information about the NWTF or to become a member, visit www.nwtf.org www.nwtf.org> or call (800) THE-NWTF.