Teen to test turkey calling technique in national tourney

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 18, 2008

Sporting goods companies love him, turkeys cannot resist him andno other caller his age in Mississippi can out-call him.

Daniel Smith, a 17-year-old senior at Lawrence County HighSchool, will travel to Atlanta after school on Wednesday to competein the 2008 National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National TurkeyCalling Championship, which takes place on Friday. Smith, the sonof Mikell and Teresa Smith, earned the right to compete in thenational showdown by winning the state competition in 2007 andpicked up a sponsorship from Primos Hunting Calls along theway.

The contest will be held as part of the 32nd annual NWTFConvention and Sport Show at the Georgia World Congress Center.Contestants will have one minute to perform a string of requiredturkey calls before a hidden panel of judges who, though theyremain anonymous until after the event, are the top turkey callersin the country.

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There are many turkey calls – cluck, putt, tree call, purr, flydown cackle and more. Smith will have to perform any of thesecalls, as well as “caller’s best call” which, for him, is the flydown cackle. With his Primos mouth call crammed in the roof hismouth, Smith will make any combination of at least nine differentturkey calls at the judges’ request, all performed with lungpower.

“I use a mouth call because I’m better at it,” Smith said. “Ican use all the other ones, but they’re not the sweetestsound.”

Smith is a regular turkey bagger. He has been calling andhunting turkeys for most of his life, and he is definitely familiarwith the different calls.

“In the mornings, turkeys will do a tree call, then they’llchange to a yelp and a fly down cackle when they leave the tree,”Smith said. “You never can tell about turkeys – after that, they’llusually do a kee kee run and a purr, but by then I’ll have doneshot one.”

Smith has hunted turkey since he was 8 years old, but he’s beencalling, and competing, even longer.

He was given his first turkey call by Charlie Smith, then adeacon at Bethel Baptist Church, when he was 3 years old. Smithfinished third at his first state calling competition in West Pointat age 8.

Smith’s love for calling intensified when Lawrence CountyJustice Court Judge Donnie Mullins introduced him to the end resultof all that calling – lead on target. Now, with his skill forcalling and trusty 20-gauge in hand, Smith is a Lawrence Countyturkey’s worst nightmare.

“I hunt ’em, call ’em and kill ’em,” Smith said. “I’ve huntedall over this area. I’m hoping to go to Texas next season.”

Last season, however, the hunts took on a different nature.

“I really don’t care about killin’ them no more,” Smith said. “Ijust like calling them. I took a bunch of friends with me this lastseason and called a few up for them.”

Smith’s current focus is all on the art of the call, especiallywith the national competition this week. Unfortunately, his turkeycalls also seem to attract butterflies.

“I’m really nervous,” Smith said. “The size of the crowd will behuge, and there’s going to be a bunch of guys – from all over theU.S. – who know what they’re doing.”

What is Smith doing to calm his nerves and prepare for the bigshow in Georgia?

“Practice, practice, practice,” he said. “At least an hour everynight before I go to sleep.”

If that practice pays off and Smith finishes first in his agegroup (16-21), he will be awarded a ton of honor and $500. Thefollowing finishers are awarded $350, $220 and $200 down theline.

For Smith, the money’s purpose is in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll spend it on,” he said. “Probably collegefunding, maybe prom.”

Smith said he plans on going to college wherever his golf gametakes him. Golf is his other love, though calling and golf do notcombine. He admitted that it would be “awesome” if he could summona turkey onto the green and nail it with a one wood.

For the next seven days, however, golf takes a back seat asSmith fully concentrates on all things turkey, gathers support fromall things supernatural and prepares to go up against the best ofthe best in Atlanta.

“It’s God first, my parents second, and Primos third,” he said,incluing a plug for his sponsorship.