Platteville turkey enthusiast Don Morshead returned to the National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National Calling Championship for a second straight year.
The Grand Nationals is considered the Super Bowl of turkey calling.
Morshead, who finished in the top 30 out of 55 callers in the Senior Division of last year’s Grand Nationals was one of 45 qualifiers for this year’s Senior Division event that was once again held at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Feb. 14–15.
Morshead again went head to head with the world’s best callers, many of whom he has studied on television and DVDs and now developed personal relationships with after meeting at last year’s national championships.
In Friday’s Senior Division preliminaries Morshead scored a total of 320 points out of a possible 400, which was 19 points higher than he scored from a year ago, but missed the finals cut of 360.
“It was again lots of fun and I met some really nice people,” said Morshead. “I did better than last year, but my goal is still to make the final cut.”
Each caller had four minutes on stage to complete four specified calls; the Tree Yelp, the Assembly Call, the Kee Kee Run, and the Cluck and Purr.
Each call was judged by seven judges on a scale of 1 to 20 with the high and low score for each call being thrown out.
The top 12 preliminary scores, as well as last year’s champion and the reigning world champion qualified for Sunday’s finals.
Matt VanCise of Brookville, Pa. won a third consecutive Senior Division title outscoring Jesse Martin of Mount Sterling, Ky. 467–463.5 in the finals. Billy Yargus finished third at 463, followed by Scott Ellis (461.5) and Shane Hendershot (460.5).
Morshead also competed in the Head-to-Head Calling Competition on Saturday. Martin defeated Hendershot in the championship of that event.
Morshead had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Hendershot of Zanesville, Ohio and the fifth-place finisher offered the Platteville caller some advice.
“He said I have a sort of gravely call and the judges at nationals are looking for a cleaner call, a crisp call,” said Morshead. “He offered to give me some pointers and said if I straighten up a few things I will be one of the top callers.
“He is going to make me a different call, a combo call and said I should move the cut of the call to the opposite side of my mouth.”
Morshead also struck up a friendship with Rod Pettit of Olatha, Kan. This May Pettit and the Outdoor Channel will be coming to Grant County to film Morshead on a fourth season turkey hunt for an upcoming television show called Fly Down Junkies.
“They wanna film me and put me on tv,” said Morshead. “That will be pretty neat. But they want to call in a turkey and have me shoot it, but I’ve only shot one turkey in all my years of hunting. I have called in hundreds for other people tho.”
Morshead will also be lending his turkey calling expertise to local hunters this March.
On Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, beginning March 1, Morshead will be making weekend appearances at Platteville’s Farm and Fleet. He will be giving free lessons on turkey calling and looks forward to “just talking turkeys with fellow hunters.”
Morshead has a prosthetic right leg and has battled various health ailments for over a decade and can no longer work due to complications from diabetes, a disease he has lived with since he was nine years old.
He has had two kidney replacements and briefly contracted lymphoma from the anti-rejection drugs he was required to take after one of the surgeries. The lymphoma is now in remission.
Last year Morshead was forced to compete from a wheelchair at the Grand Nationals after a fall down the basement steps of his Platteville home that resulted in a cracked heel and a hematoma around the ankle of his left leg.
Morshead qualified for the 2014 Grand National Championships with a second-place finish at the Wisconsin Turkey Calling State Championships in Kenosha in March of 2013, where he also finished second in the Owl Hoot competition.
He will look to qualify for a third straight Grand Nataional Calling Championship at the 2014 Kenosha Bowmen Turkey Calling Contest on March 24.
He was accompanied to Nashville by his wife Betty and family friends Kevin and Peg Udelhoven of Potosi.