I guess it's no secret to our blog that I read The New York Times every day. Well, the other morning I was happy to see a great lead story on their home page: "Competing on Calls That Aren't Just Elk to Elk." Okay, so the title's a bit awkward, but it was nice to see such front and center coverage of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation World Elk Calling Championship in Reno, Nev.
The article talked about three finalists in the PeeWee Division of the contest, who are also members of their Reno elementary school's Elk Club. It's an after-school group started by a science teacher who wanted to connect learning to call with environmental education. I'm sure a lot of youngsters, hunters or not, wouldn't mind blowing off some after-school steam by making noise with funny tubes.
I'm also sure that a number of them could put my calling skills to shame. I haven't exactly been the fastest learner when it comes to that subject.
I started off with some helpful observations, though. I remember when I began to suspect on my first duck hunt, that part of calling is knowing when to cork it. I was sharing three adjacent blinds with 9 guys, and the minute an approaching spec appeared in the sky, every one of them started blowing with a vengeance, assaulting the poor bird with this wall of sound that undoubtedly warned it all was not well. Good to know.
I later tried a goose call for the first time on a hunt with some Amish friends in central Pennsylvania. They're the humblest, thriftiest, most non-materialistic people I know - but I swear between the two of them, they'd ordered every call Cabela's ever displayed in its catalog. The just love, LOVE to hunt and weren't shy about outfitting themselves with the best equipment they could find.
Anyway, one of them offered to teach me how to call my first time out with them. I was afraid of emptying the entire northeast of its goose population but I figured, what the hell, I'd played trumpet and French horn through college - I could certainly handle a piece of plastic.
Well, it was just embarrassing. After a few failed attempts with one call, they offered me another, suggesting it might be easier. No can do - that call just would not be tamed. If I did end up getting a decent sound, I couldn't figure out how to bend the tone. And apparently just blowing harder is not the answer.
So I may not be a crack goose caller (yet), but how do the rest of us hold up? Turkeys, ducks, geese, elk - what are your calling triumphs and turmoils? And have you been out with any obnoxious callers, or for that matter, any child prodigies? -K.H.