When I got to the finals of the Open Division of the NWTF’s 2017 Grand National Championship, the scenario that the judges asked the finalists to recreate was: a hen waking up in her roost tree, and then flying down into a field and trying to call in other turkeys. So, I started my call routine giving some very soft tree calls. As she woke up on the roost, I called a little louder and then a little louder. When the time came for her to fly down, I gave a fly-down cackle. When she landed, I did some soft yelping, purring and scratching in the leaves.
The second scenario was a fall scenario. We were told to imagine that the night before, a group of jakes and hens were flushed and scattered. The hen flew down the next morning and attempted to call the flock together again. In the process of calling the flock together, two jakes got into a fight. So, I started my calling routine giving hen’s kee kee calls and sounding like three different hens. Every turkey sounds differently. So, I wanted to paint a picture in the judge’s minds of three hens calling from about the same area. Then I started doing some assembly yelps, followed by some jake yelps. Next I gave more kee-kee, jake and hen calls to sound like a flock of turkeys trying to get back together. Then I started giving some fighting purrs of jakes that were trying to establish who the dominant jake in the flock was. After the contest was over, I was asked, “Why do you think the judges chose you as the winner?” I believe it was because I had a unique sound, and the way I put my calls together to paint the picture in the judges’ minds of the scenario they had asked us to reproduce.
I spend a lot of time in the fall woods listening to turkeys call. I try to listen and learn how the day unfolds, and the calls that the turkeys make as they try to regroup after being scattered. I've taken my video camera and recorded how turkeys wake up in the fall, and how the flocks are called together. Then I try to reproduce what I’ve seen, heard and recorded.
I was lucky enough to win the preliminary 2017 competition. Then when 14 of us went to the finals, I was fortunate enough to win that also. After I did my calls, I honestly can say I felt like I had given the best calls I ever had given in my life. If another caller beat me, he was going to have to put up some really high scores. As I walked off the stage, I knew that I had done the very best I could do. I didn’t think I could have made any call better. J. R. Lanham from Missouri finished 12-1/2 points behind me to take second place.
I was also asked, “Now that you’ve won the Grand National, what’s in the future for you?” I explain that I'm going to come back next year and try to defend my title. In two weeks, I'm going to Stuttgart, Arkansas, and compete there in the World Turkey Calling Championship. I'm going to continue to be a member of Mossy Oak’s Pro Staff Team, and build calls for American Strutter. I plan to do that as long as I can. I'm doing everything that I love to do.
Tomorrow: Jesse Martin's Toughest Turkey