Thanks to the reintroduction of wild turkeys in the Great Lakes region in recent decades, the popularity of the bird with hunters has gained a strong foothold in the region.
That was evident during the popular Grand National Calling Championships last week at the National Wild Turkey Federation convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Two Pennsylvanians won titles and 13 other callers from Great Lakes states placed during the competition at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
In all, Pennsylvania callers won 11 awards, the most for any state in the championships.
Matt VanCise paced a one-two Pennsylvania finish in the Friction Championship. VanCise, of Brookville, Pa., edged Pat Strawser, of Millersburg, Pa., for that title. VanCise also was second runner-up in the Senior Division Championship.
In a competition dominated by Great Lakes callers, Hunter Wallis, of Carbondale, Pa., won the Intermediate Division Championship (age 16-20). Haylee Newell, of Dawson, Pa., was second runner-up and Dakota Chamberlain, of Sylvania, Ohio, was third runner-up.
In the highly regarded Gobbling Championship, Zachary Garnes, of Chambersburg, Pa., finished second and Jed Paronish, North Cambria, Pa., was fourth runner-up. Paronish also teamed with Doug Crabtree, of Mansfield, Ohio, to finish second runner-up in another of the marquee events – the Team Challenge.
Other Great Lakes finishers: Shane Simpson, White Bear Lake, Minn., third runner-up, Owl Hooting Championship; Robert Huber, Fishertown, Pa., fourth runner-up, Owl Hooting Championship; Josh Grossenbacher, Toledo, Ohio, first runner-up, Senior Division Championship; Ethan Jones, Beaver, Ohio, second runner-up, Poult Division Championship (age 10 and under); Bo Bartlebaugh IV, Armagh, Pa., fourth runner-up, Poult Division Championship; Corey Chamberlain, Claysburg, Pa., first runner-up, Junior Division Championship (age 11-15); and Trevor Schaeffer, Richfield, Pa., third runner-up, Junior Division Championship.
Division championship sponsors included Cabela’s, Avian-X, Zink Calls and Mossy Oak.
Also, a pair of New Yorkers received national Hunting Heritage Awards during the 42nd annual convention. Earl “Butch” Kortright of Parksville, N.Y., was named the JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) Volunteer of the Year, and Bill Wilbur of Mexico, N.Y., was named Wheelin’ Sportsmen Volunteer of the Year.