Dead End Game Calls
Nomad - Come on, Join Our Turkey Hunting Camp
“It’s a chess match, an adrenaline rush, the ultimate interaction between hunter and hunted.” That’s how Mitchell Johnston describes turkey hunting, and he should know. Johnston was able to turn his passion for hunting and the outdoors into a lifestyle and a profession. Johnston has won four national turkey calling championships, three world titles and a U.S. Open, not to mention several state championships in his native North Carolina. He’s also the owner and founder of Dead End Game Calls and host of Dead End Game Calls TV on Mossy Oak Go.
Therefore, it is fitting--and with no pun intended--that he views turkey hunting as a calling. “It’s something I felt led to do, called to do,” he says. “I treat what I do more as a ministry than a business.” He answers that calling by working with the Outdoor Dream Foundation, granting outdoor adventures to children who face some of life’s toughest challenges.
His philosophy also meshes nicely with the Nomad Hunter, who seeks more than mere success and trophy-class animals. Hunting is part of an inclusive lifestyle for those of us at Nomad Outdoor. Ours is a community of everyday people who love the challenges and tradition of hunting, time spent outdoors and, more importantly, the comradery of those with whom we share these pursuits.
That, in turn, involves recruiting newcomers, and Johnston is passionate about getting more people involved in turkey hunting. “There’s nothing else like it,” he says, “hearing that turkey gobbling on the roost, watching him strut in on a cool morning, the breath coming from his mouth as he gobbles, being one with nature and enjoying the creator through his creation.
Describing it as a chess game might intimidate newcomers, but Johnston quickly points out, “You don’t have to be a competition caller to call in a turkey. Some of the worst calls I hear in the woods come from the real thing rather than hunters. A good woodsman will kill more turkeys than a great caller.”
It’s also important to remember that turkey hunting is a process. Nobody steps into the woods on their first hunt knowing all the moves to make. They learn from experience and others. “That’s one of the best things, the most enjoyable things about turkey hunting,” Johnston says. “You can do it with other people. Unlike deer hunting, where you’re usually alone in a deer stand, you can share the fellowship, the friendship and the experience with others. Making memories with other people means more to me than pulling the trigger myself.”
While mentors can help flatten the learning curve, the best teachers are the birds themselves. “The best piece of advice I can give a new turkey hunter is to get out in the woods and listen to real turkeys,” says Johnston. Then, simply mimic what you hear. That may sound overly simplistic, but with a little time and practice, any newcomer can become proficient enough to at least attract a turkey’s attention. The calls you use can also be a factor, so every Dead End pot call is hand-matched to a striker, then hand-tuned and conditioned to make sure it sounds like a turkey.
It then becomes a matter of getting the bird to come your way, where woodsmanship comes in. “My father-in-law told me you can call a turkey anywhere he wants to go. It’s simple, but so very true,” says Johnston. You need to know where he wants to go or how to entice him to come your way.
That can be challenging as it’s somewhat contrary to the turkey’s nature, where the hen often comes to the gobbler. “You gotta call him up,” says Johnston, “...pull him away from his hens.” Or sometimes, you can call the hens, and the gobblers follow. “It’s an epic battle when you hear a bird coming your way. You’re calling, and he’s responding. Then he hangs up, so you pour it on with yelping and cutting to get the hen fired up. It’s a gamut of awesome
that’s hard to explain in words. You have to get out there and experience it in person.”
“The rewards come in stages,” says Johnston, “from knowing you’re winning a battle
all the way down to pulling the trigger. Then there’s the satisfaction in knowing you just supplied food for your family and were able to share that experience.”
The memories remain long after the meal is consumed and the season draws to a close. But there will be another season, another chance to play the game, face the challenge, feel the adrenaline, share the experience with friends and family and ensure the hunting tradition remains strong. These are the true trophies of the Nomad hunter.
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