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Illinois hunting and fishing

Tim Weaver competes at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic.

Perfecting the call of the wild

April 02, 2011 at 09:17 PM

Prairie State Outdoors

Top turkey callers say a calling competition has one thing in common with the real thing.


“When you practice more, you are going to be more comfortable making all the calls whenever you get nervous during a hunt,” says Tim Weaver of Red Bud, located south of St. Louis in Randolph County.

Weaver took first place in the Illinois State Division of the Illinois Turkey Calling & Owl Hooting Championships held as part of the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic in Peoria last weekend.

The Mackinaw Valley Gobblers and Woodford County Sharp Spurs chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation provided volunteers to run the three-hour competition.

Turkey hunting starts for real this weekend with the youth hunt in the north zone — including central Illinois.

The regular season opens in counties roughly south of Interstate 70 on Monday, and on April 11 in the north zone.

During the competition, callers offer up their best yelps, cackles, purrs, clucks and owl hoots while trying to impress a panel of judges who are separated from the contestants by a black curtain.

At first glance, owl hooting may not seem to fit in.

But turkey hunters will tell you that a nervous gobbler may react to an owl hoot, thus giving away its roosting location to a hunter setting up in the pre-dawn darkness.

If all goes according to plan, the whole suite of calls helps hunters find a turkey and attract it into range.


‘Excellent practice’
Weaver, who took third place last year, says wary turkeys have heard it all and are hard to fool.

“It helps you to call in birds that are hunted a lot and hear people calling all the time,” he says. “I think the more real you sound, the better chance you have.”

And even though the climate-controlled Peoria Civic Center is a long way from the turkey woods, calling in front of judges is as close to the real thing as one can get indoors.

“It’s excellent practice,” Weaver says.

John Wagner of Medora, which is south of Greenfield, won the Hunter Class.

He says calling in contests has helped his everyday calling.

“It just builds your confidence up,” he says. “I was able to do calls better out in the woods, even ones I didn’t think I could do.”

Youth winner Jacob Kuechle, 15, of Maryville, says he wishes more kids would get involved.

“It’s fun to get out there and (compete),” he says. “If we could get a lot more kids, it would be a lot more fun.”

Kuechle says he practices almost every day when calling contests approach.

“Usually, the first couple of months before the contest it’s pretty much every day of the week,” he says. “I practice mostly after school — about an hour or so a day.”

Asked if he gives that much time to his homework, the Collinsville High School student smiles and shrugs his shoulders.

“It depends.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528,

Illinois hunting and fishing

Illinois hunting and fishing

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