Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 9 (part 2)

As the fun afternoon wore on, a distant sand storm began to cloud the setting sun, which made for an amazingly beautiful sky and dangerous flying conditions. No matter to us, we saw it as an unexpected, but welcome opportunity. We had such a fun afternoon on the range, and our group bonded almost instantly with many of the servicemen and women.

Members of the camp were eager to display one of the flags I’d been carrying on this incredible journey.

With the sand storm delaying our pickup flight we were given bonus time with this Special Forces unit.

The handlers were disciplined in the correct manner of folding and carrying our flag. The flag ceremonies all ended the same way: I was presented with a perfectly folded flag, which meant there was no red showing.

Every American should feel patriotic pride whenever he or she sees the Stars and Stripes, knowing there have been hundreds of thousands throughout history who have given their lives to defend that flag and our freedom.

Old Glory was always shown honor, respect and reverence each time it was displayed.

As I mentioned before, my luggage was lost on the flight from Germany. The few things I did have in my backpack were perhaps a bit atypical — my passport, Kindle, American flags, lip balm, a Mossy Oak cap with the NWTF logo, a light jacket and one of my Sweet Talk turkey calls.

My motto: Might as well make the best of every situation.

Thanks to the sandstorm, we had time to spare in camp. I figured some of the group would enjoy a little turkey calling. Most of them were turkey hunters, but as with any group of hunters, their skill and experience levels ranged widely. They were quick to critic each others calling or sometimes just scowl if the notes were off key.

This bunch of Southern boys enjoyed a little Sweet Talk turkey calling.

I finally parted with the Sweet Talk call in this camp and left it for them to practice on until they are able to come home and actually use their calling skills in the turkey woods.

— Brenda

 

 

Attention outdoor TV junkies!

Big news for Pursuit Channel, home of NWTF programming! Starting TODAY it’s moving to DirecTV channel 604.

It’s a mere four remote clicks away from it’s previous home (608), but it’s a world of difference in bringing in more viewers to learn about the NWTF and our mission.

You see, right now, there’s this itty-bitty thing going on called the Olympics. NBC Sports, channel 603, is now Pursuit Channel’s neighbor, and they’ll provide great coverage of the games. Our hope is folks who may not dig women’s gymnastics will start channel surfing and land on one of our awesome shows.

Two NWTF shows are currently running on Pursuit Channel. “Get in the Game” shows viewers how to make their plot of dirt a haven for wildlife. And the exciting new “NWTF 365,” which debuted this summer, demonstrates how NWTF volunteers have stuff going on all year long — and not just during spring turkey season.

Haven’t had a chance to catch an episode of “NWTF 365” yet? Check out the show trailer below.

Then look for it on DirecTV channel 604 on Tuesdays (5:30 p.m.), Thursdays (1 a.m.) and Sundays (10 p.m.).

Find “Get in the Game” on Wednesdays (9:30 p.m.), Thursdays (5:30 p.m.), Fridays (12:30 a.m.) and Sundays (11:30 p.m.).

All times are EST.

So reset your DVRs and let your fellow hunters know of the big move. And if they don’t have Pursuit Channel, tell them they can catch episodes of “NWTF 365” and “Get in the Game” at www.pursuitchannel.com a week or so after they’ve aired.

You never know when winning will hit ya

Back in the spring, I held a giveaway with my new hunting buddy, champion turkey caller Mitchell Johnston. He makes a line of sweet-sounding turkey calls, designed to help hunters put a hurtin’ on gobblers. They are aptly named Dead End Game Calls.

You got to know Mitchell in earlier blog posts, even gleaned a few mouth call care tips from a guy that’s used the same ones for seven years. (Yeah, you read that right.)

Mitchell Johnston is the Santa Claus of turkey calls, giving away seven of his Dead End call creations to my nice blog followers.

In an earlier giveaway, Mitchell sent seven calls to for Keepin’ Up With Karen followers who were also good at following directions. He parted with seven of his handmade creations to the lucky few who were drawn.

Congrats to…

Ken Bailey
Kevin Beck
Brandon Oxford
Dave Quong
Ryen Sawyer
Genie Walker
Greg Wood

You don’t have to do a thing except wait for Mitchell to contact you. Then you have roughly 290 days until kick off for the spring season.

If you’re a fall turkey hunter, let us know if you do any good with your new Dead End Game Call this year. I love pictures…

 

Wandering the Halls: Sam McDuffie, NWTF’s Winchester Museum Coordinator

Sam McDuffie is cool hipster meets Boy Scout. Musician meets museum coordinator. A creative mind who enjoys science. Basically, Sam is a walking, talking dichotomy.

Sam McDuffie wants to chunk tomatoes at Lady Gaga. He’s grown a beard since this photo was taken, so he might get away with it. Wait, I just blew his disguise…

I love folks like that. They keep you guessing.

By day, Sam molds young minds as they tour the Winchester Museum at NWTF headquarters. By night, he’s singer/songwriter/guitar god for the folk rock/blues group, Banned in Two States.

He recently meshed his two lives by writing and performing, “Get Your Call On,” a song/rap about wild turkeys. Talk about dichotomy…

The song is clever, but the music video will make you pee your pants. I’ve posted it on Keeping Up With Karen before, but it warrants another look, especially after you get to know the mastermind behind it.

Drum roll, please … SAM McDUFFIE! Then stick around for another showing of “Get Your Call On!”

OFFICIAL TITLE: museum coordinator/educator/Boy Scouts of America project manager

JOB DESCRIPTION: I educate the young minds about conservation, which includes the wild turkey, the greatest conservation comeback story. Occasionally, I get to add a new museum exhibit or two in the Winchester Museum.

NWTF EMPLOYEE SINCE: August 2009

WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I was an interpretive ranger for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ state parks division. I was the infamous “Ranger Sam.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? Being a positive role model for the students I educate and teaching them that science is cool.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? The end of each fiscal year — too many reports that have to be turned in.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…with my wife at one of the five restaurants in Edgefield, S.C.

IF YOU WERE A WILD ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? A barred owl, because it would be cool to fly and live at the top of the food chain. Also, I’ve always been a bit of a “night owl.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE FRONT ROW TICKETS TO ANY MUSICAL ARTIST/BAND EVER, WHO WOULD IT BE? Lady Gaga, so I can throw tomatoes at her for ruining music. Seriously, it would be The Black Keys. Their music resonates with me. They’re my favorite band (right now).

He is a champion, my friend

Your copy of the May-June issue of Turkey Country has had plenty of time to simmer on the coffee table, bed stand, back of the toilet or wherever you catch a few moments of downtime for yourself to read a few pages.

I’d like to invite you to pull it back out of the stack and look at the cover with me. No big time commitment. Simply look at the pretty picture, and allow me to give you the inside scoop.

Doesn’t Mark Prudhomme have the nicest smile? He looks like a favorite uncle. So kind and friendly. I also imagine him as the family friend who would take you fishing or show up unannounced at one of your Little League ballgames.

But this man is a mega contender in the calling competition realm. He was crowned champion in three divisions of the 2012 Grand National Calling Competitions — Owl Hooting, Team Challenge (with Kerry Terrell) and the Wild Turkey Rare Breed Champion of Champions. That’s the most titles any competitor has ever won in a single year. To top that, he now holds 13 GNCC titles — more than any competitor in GNCC history!

No one gets to be THAT successful by being a nice guy. Or do they?

Absolutely, if you’re Mark Prudhomme.

I called Mark to find out how he thought the Turkey Country cover bearing his friendly face turned out, and I was met by a wave of humility.

Here’s one image from the Mark Prudhomme photo shoot that didn’t make the cut. We were trying to have some fun, mixing two aspects of Mark’s life — winning calling competitions and working as a professional land manager. He was a good sport, allowing the photography team to haul a dozen or so of his trophies to the field and load them in a spreader.

He told me how he’d get Turkey Call magazine when he was a kid, remembering when it was just art on the cover, not photos. He was eager to dig into it. And when he started calling competitively, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on The Caller (when it was a stand alone newspaper) to see his name listed as a winner in a state or regional contest.

“It was a lifelong dream to be on the cover of the NWTF’s magazine,” he said. “So when [the magazine staff] called and said they wanted to put me on it, I couldn’t believe it.”

Mark said he enjoyed being a part of the creative process, watching NWTF Photo Director Matt Lindler and graphic artist Ryan Kirby set up the shots.

“It was amazing to watch their minds work,” Mark said. “When I saw the finished cover, I wasn’t surprised that they’d done a good job. They’re professionals. But I was really amazed at how well it turned out. They must have someone who’s really skilled at Photoshop to make me look that good.”

Mark made the cover of Turkey Country not only because of his wicked awesome calling skills, but that he lives his life as a hunter, land manager and family man with the same commitment it takes to be a winner on the competition stage. Plus, he’s just so darn nice about it.

Read more about Mark on page 128 of the May-June issue. Then click here to check out a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the cover.

Discover for yourself how sometimes nice guys finish first … a lot.

Get your call (and laughs) on here

This morning I grabbed the wrong pair of pants from the hamper (I wore them dirty anyway), bit into a bran muffin filled with raisins (which I loathe) and apparently forgot to rinse the conditioner out of my hair. I was, as the kids say, a hot mess.

Then I realized it’s Thursday, not Monday, and that fixed everything. Not so much.

But this hilarious music video by my NWTF coworkers put me somewhat back on track.

Sam McDuffie, our museum coordinator, who moonlights as a musician, wrote the song, “Get Your Call On.” The “fly guys” are Joe Mole (video department) and Chris Piltz (special events).

And if you believe the animatronic old man really came to life, hold on to your fairytale dreams. If you don’t, it’s Robert Abernethy, assistant VP of agency programs, getting his geriatric groove on.

When I think about how this video pulled me from my deep hole of self-pity, I said to myself, I MUST SPREAD THE POSITIVENESS OF GETTING YOUR CALL ON.

It deserves to go viral, people. So do your part! Share this piece of awesomeness!

 

Six things you didn’t know about champion caller Mitchell Johnston

Mitchell Johnston really emerged on the turkey hunting scene when he took home the title of 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion. It wasn’t an overnight achievement; he’s been calling competitively for more than a decade, winning more than 30 contests from the local to national, even world levels.

But there’s more to Mitchell than mouth calls and kee kee runs.

His closest friends call him Mitch. Sarah and Cadence call him Daddy. And fellow champion caller Mark Prudhomme says the guys on the circuit know him to be as passionate about turkey hunting as he is devoted to his family.

You can learn a lot about a person by spending hours with them in a blind. I learned that if Mitchell Johnston (right) was a cookie, he’d be chocolate chip. And his friend, Cornbread, would be oatmeal. Not that any of that matters…

I got a crash course in Mitchell by spending two days with him in his hometown of Purlear, N.C. You learn a lot about a person by staying in his home with his family. You learn even more spending hours upon hours with him in a hunting blind, along with one of his closest friends (named Cornbread).

The random stuff I took away from our hours of conversation ranged anywhere from silly to serious. And each little nugget of personal info combines into who Mitchell is today.

Somebody call 9-1-1! Mitchell and Karen are on call! We stopped by the volunteer fire department where Mitchell Johnston lends some of his rare spare time. Did you notice it’s the Champion Fire Department? Get it? He’s a champion caller? Work with me here, folks.

Everyone, meet the real Mitchell:

  1. He called in his first turkey at age 16 — a jake he shot with an old Ithaca.
  2. His wife, Ashley, killed her first buck the evening he proposed to her, which threw a loop in his special dinner plans. But it all worked out. They’ve been married for 9 years now.
  3. Mitchell entered the work force as a high school math teacher. He also coached baseball and tennis. But teaching left him trapped in a classroom when the turkeys were gobbling outside, so he left to pursue another passion as a firefighter.
  4. He delivered his first daughter, Sarah. The doctor knew he was a trained EMT and asked if he’d ever delivered a baby before. Mitchell hadn’t. “Well, right now’s a good time to practice,” said the doctor. So Mitchell went from not even wanting to be in the room to delivering her.
  5. He and Ashley named their second daughter, Cadence, after the rhythm of sounds a turkey makes.
  6. His family wasn’t at the NWTF Convention when he won his Grand National title. But he called Ashley from the stage to tell her the news. (He still tears up telling the story of his win.)

More important than what I found out about Mitchell is what he wants you to know about him.

“It’s true my family and my faith are my priorities in life,” said Mitchell. “It’s also spot on that turkey hunting is my passion. Winning calling contests and now having my own line of hunting calls and products is a dream come true for me.”

One day Mitchell hopes God blesses his company, Dead End Game Calls, to be successful enough to make a living for his family while doing what he loves, which is calling in old gobblers to his gun and helping others do the same.

Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.

Mitchell says watch your mouth (calls)

I spent two days with 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion Mitchell Johnston in his hometown of Purlear, N.C., this spring. The idea was for us to kill a turkey or two and for him to make me a better caller.

We had our work cut out for us on the turkeys, which weren’t gobbling, as well as the calling lessons. Let’s just say you won’t find me on the calling competition stage any time soon.

But we did have a breakthrough — I learned to make a somewhat, sort of turkey sound using one of his Dead End Game Calls mouth calls. It was light years beyond the mutant bumblebee hums I’d achieved before.

Champion caller Mitchell Johnston makes a mean turkey call — mean on the turkeys, but easy for us to use. You have a chance at a free one. Just scroll down for details.

I tried his Roadkill Mini-Me (youth model/smaller frame) Batwing 3 cut and actually sounded like a hen, albeit one with a high-pitched, super raspy voice. (Surely, a few toms out there that dig that kind of talk.)

I think my humble achievement was due to Mitchell knowing how to make calls. He crafts each one by hand, using the same latex tension as on the calls he uses to compete (and win) contests.

According to Mitchell, it takes less air to make his mouth calls sing, which I was grateful for, since I’m going to need a lot of practice. My little ol’ lungs can only handle so much abuse.

The same goes for a mouth call.

“When a mouth call is not properly cared for, it can lose its effectiveness and overall tone and volume,” said Mitchell, who gave me these tips to help our mouth calls perform to their full potential as well as give them increased longevity.

1. Keep calls out of sunlight. (ex. Do not place them on the dash of your truck.)

2. Let the calls air out in a shady area, preferably at room temperature.

3. Place the calls in the refrigerator after it has dried out. Many callers and hunters do this, however, I do not. I simply place my mouth calls on top of a cabinet, entertainment center, etc., let them dry out overnight, then close my call case. (Why the high location? To keeps my kids from getting their hands on the calls.)

During my couple days with Mitchell, I got to make my own mouth call. Can you guess which one is mine? It sounds about as good as it looks. (Making a call ain’t easy, people.)

4. Begin using the calls before going into the area you are hunting, which will help separate the latex reeds if they are stuck together. If the latex reeds are still stuck together after a period of time, pull the latex apart by pulling the top reed towards the closed end of the horseshoe frame. Use extreme caution in doing this, because it can tear the latex and ruin the call altogether.

Just so you know, Mitchell has been using some of the same mouth calls for nearly seven years. Talk about rockin’ oral hygiene!

Don’t forget these TLC rules of mouth calls. Yours might last long enough to be an heirloom to pass on to your children. On second thought, that’s kind of nasty. I recommend bequeathing one of Mitchell’s box or slate calls instead. Your kids can thank me later.

Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.

So spread the word, little birds!