Turkey calling contests are one of the hunter's most serious and most comical events that occur during the off season.
One of the most important contests will be happening next Sunday at the Claysburg-Kimmel High School auditorium in Claysburg.
It's an all day affair - doors open at 9 a.m. - with the first contest beginning at 10 a.m. The opening events are the owl hooting and gobbling contests and they are pure entertainment as well as the opportunity to hear the best of the hooters and gobblers in action.
One of the values of these contests is that the average hunter, who may be struggling to master various turkey calls, can see and hear the best in the state in action next Sunday. This is a National Wild Turkey Federation-sanctioned contest, which means winners can move on to the national contests and perhaps even the Grand National coming up later.
Trophies, and even cash awards, will be awarded the winners of the various categories of competition. The junior and senior division contests begin about 2 p.m.
Incidentally, this year the list of which calls will be required are not being released prior to the contest, so any participants had better be boned up on everything when they show up.
The listening and discerning of tones and rhythms of good turkey calling can be learned by the amateur at these contests where every caller is probably a winner of many other titles in other years. They know what they are doing and you can perfect your own skill at calling just by emulating the way they do it.
What I enjoy most, however, is the body language and stage antics that so many callers employ while they are competing. I suppose it's just to please the audience because the judges can't see their theatrics.
It's a good thing too because many judges might be tempted to skew votes to those who put on the best floor show when the competition must be judged on sound and rhythm alone.
I thoroughly enjoy seeing the entrant flap his arms like wings when he does a fly-down cackle or hunch his body up like a sleepy turkey on the roost when he does the quiet, soft tree call.
An unusual category in the Claysburg contest next Sunday is the Head-to-Heat event, in which two contestants team up to call competitively. It's all a big hoot (pardon the pun) and a great way to spend a snowy, cold Sunday while marking off the days until trout and turkey seasons begin.
We are all engrossed, I'm sure, in the whole gun debate now raging because we wonder what it is going to mean for us who own shotguns, rifle and handguns for hunting, target shooting and protection.
I listened to as much of it as I could, and I caught one of the countless pundits who made a remark that has gone almost unnoticed in the fray but which I found profound. I don't remember who said it, but the remark was this: "The most effective way to go about the reduction of guns in the populace was to create an environment of disdain, to demean gun owners as offensive, uncivilized rednecks."
This person went on to pontificate that this is exactly the tactic that was used to change the public attitude toward smoking.
I am old enough to remember that movies of years past showed the stars smoking endlessly and no one thought anything much about it.
Try that nowadays. While people did not think smoking was an especially desirable habit, those who smoked did not feel excluded as they do today.
It's already started against legitimate gun owners. The largest outdoor show in the Northeast - The Harrisburg Outdoor Show - that begins in a couple of weeks, has already declared that they will not allow certain booths and displays of what they call tech guns to be allowed.
So the path to make perfectly legitimate gun manufacturers and sellers feel as if they are doing something wrong is in full swing.
And those sportsmen and women who attend these shows partly to view the latest in such offerings are just left in the cold.