Editor’s Note: Although Knight & Hale made a wide variety of game calls, the goose tube call and the EZ Grunter deer call were two of their most-famous calls. They created a wide variety of great turkey calls in the early days and built the company’s reputation on turkey calls. They not only competed in turkey-calling contests - they often judged them. They were on the front end of the turkey-restocking programs started by State Departments of Conservation across the nation and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). In those days, very few people knew how to call or hunt turkeys. David Hale and Harold Knight were two of the top professors in the school of teaching turkey hunting and calling to the entire nation. Mossy Oak wanted to know how Harold Knight learned how to hunt and call turkeys.
In the 1950s, turkey hunters were my heroes, because there weren’t many of them, and everyone knew that those few hunters who could take wild turkeys were some of the best woodsmen in our part of Kentucky. So when I was a boy, I’d go over to these older men’s houses and get them to tell me about turkey hunting. I was like a hungry dog begging for a bone. Every day after turkey season, I’d go talk to these men. I’d ask them, “Did you take a turkey? Did you hear a turkey gobble? Did you see any turkey tracks?” The older men quickly understood I wanted to learn all I could about turkey hunting. At that time there weren’t more than a dozen turkey hunters in my part of Kentucky – the Land Between the Lakes.
Each one of these men had a certain territory they hunted, and everybody in our community knew that you did not go into the areas where these guys were hunting. Finally, one of these men took me under his wing and agreed to take me turkey hunting with him. He was going to hunt on one side of the dirt road, and he looked me square in the eyes and said, “Don’t you dare come on this side of the road.” I remember those words like it was yesterday.
One of those old hunters had made me a cedar box call with a cedar stick and taught me how to use it. The man was a very gifted call maker. I put chalk on the cedar stick and chalk on the cedar box, and he showed me how to rub that stick against the box. The box would yelp like a turkey. I was sitting in the woods yelping on that box call, and a turkey came up – my first ever to call. He walked up in front of me and scared me to death! I looked straight at the turkey and shot where the turkey wasn’t. Without question, that was the worst missed turkey in my entire turkey-hunting career.
After I learned to use the little friction call, I practiced blowing on a leaf to make the yelp of a wild turkey. I never could get consistent with my calling on the leaf, and I couldn’t call very loud with it. Back in those days, real turkey hunters had Gibson box calls, and I really wanted one of those Gibson turkey box calls. But I didn’t have the money to buy one. When I went to visit those older turkey hunters, sometimes, they’d let me play with their Gibson turkey calls, but not for long.
In 1962, Kentucky opened its first turkey season when I was 16 years old. My old turkey hunting buddy said, “You can ride with me, because we need to go about 7 miles. I’ll put you out, and I’ll come back and pick you up when it’s time to go back home.” That afternoon when he came to pick me up, he had a big gobbler. He showed me the big gobbler he had taken that morning, and then I showed him the gobbler I had taken. I checked that turkey in at the check-in station. I never will forget how proud I was, because those turkeys at Land Between the Lakes weren’t part of the restocking program of wild turkeys in the State of Kentucky. At that time, those turkeys had been at Land Between the Lakes all the way back to Indian days, when the Native Americans were the only people who lived here. Twelve gobblers were checked in that year. Today I'm the only man alive who took one of those first turkeys. I went to the last man’s funeral a few days ago. He was 95 when he passed.