LA PORTE, Ind. — All sorts of techniques were employed to get turkeys to gobble and the competition was neck and neck; that’s how the first turkey gobbling competition at one county fair in the Hoosier state played out.
Nine-year-old Joe Pumroy was the victor by just one gobble, in a spirited July 9 showdown at the fair in LaPorte County, in the northwestern part of the state. "Awesome" is how the La Porte area boy – who attends Riley Elementary School – reacted when the competition was over.
His tom turkey gobbled 61 times in 15 minutes in the contest, involving about a dozen turkeys, outside the poultry barn. Perhaps the gobbling class that taught Pumroy how to make turkey calls the day before the competition enticed his turkey to open up more often than the one belonging to MacKenzie LaGard, 12, of Michigan City.
She figured going in that she had a good chance, by the way her turkey frequently gobbles at home. "When we talk, he just goes off," she explained.
Pumroy belted out turkey calls while LaGard, competing beside him, spoke softly and maintained eye contact with her turkey to try to draw out more gobbles than other 4-H competitors. Pumroy said for his good work, his turkey, Cornucopia, is not going on any dinner tables soon like the other birds on his family’s farm … instead, he’ll give it until Thanksgiving for both of them to savor the moment.
Turkeys weren’t the only birds competing. McKenzie Powell, 14, also of La Porte, with her rooster crowing 21 times in 15 minutes, had outdistanced her dozen or so opponents in a separate competition 30 minutes earlier.
In second place for the rooster contest was La Porte area resident Jacob Buyer, 16, whose rooster belted out 17 crows.
"I feel good. I didn’t think I was going to win, but I did," said Powell, who took home a trophy along with a $25 savings bond for her rooster’s prizewinning efforts.
Powell kept waving a plastic grain scooper in front of her bird to try to draw out more crows. "He just kind of crows on his own. I don’t think anything special did it," she surmised.
Jackie Thompson, one of the volunteers at the fair, said rooster crowing is a long tradition there. Turkeys have long maintained a presence, but never competed until now. She was beaming at about how 4-H children having turkeys compete went over with the crowd of close to 100 people.
"It was wonderful. It turned out really well," said Thompson, who promised the competition will return to next year’s fair.
The different techniques used by 4-Hers to get the turkeys to gobble are apparently similar to how hunters get turkeys gobbling so they can track their location by the sounds. Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Gene Davis said turkeys gobble as a way of communicating that they’re aroused, for example, or scared.
Male turkeys gobble to attract female turkeys during mating season and Davis, while hunting, has even heard spooked turkeys ‘’gobble continuously’’ in concert with an ambulance or police vehicle racing by in the wild with sirens blasting.
He also calls out like a coyote during his hunts to put fear into turkeys so they will gobble, and he can follow the noise to where they are to get a clear shot. "Definitely different loud noises will trigger them to gobble," said Davis - who isn’t quite sure if anything really works similarly to make roosters crow.