Call of the Wild
At the 2001 Grand National Wild Turkey Calling Championship in Columbus, one man reached a defining moment in his life. That man was Shane Hendershot. As he sat in the crowd and watched highlights of past champions flash across the big-screen TV, the turkey-calling Zanesville native got goose bumps.
Shane slides his tall, thin frame into a desk chair. He’s relaxed, comfortably dressed in jeans, a black baseball cap and a white T-shirt emblazoned with the orange logo of his sponsor, Zink Calls. But his eyes have a distant yet focused look as he clearly relives that moment seven years ago. “I looked at my wife and said, ‘I want to do that one of these days,’” he says. “‘I want to be up on that stage.’”Six years later, Shane achieved that goal, and he had the stage all to himself.
Shane was introduced to turkey calling after watching a contest in Nelsonville in 1998. A year later he participated in his first competition, which he won despite his novice status. “I just got up there and tried to sound like a turkey,” he says with a laugh as he rubs his thin goatee.
Regardless, this small victory ignited a fiery passion for the sport. “Once I got a taste of it, I wanted more and more,” he says.
By the time the 2001 Grand Nationals came around and he failed to qualify, Shane gave himself five years to make it to the final round of a major turkey-calling tournament. If he couldn’t make the cut, he would stick to hunting.
In 2005, a year shy of his self-imposed deadline, Shane qualified for one of those majors—the U.S. Open Turkey Calling Contest—but was cut before the last round.
“At the very first major I ever got in, I missed the cut by one point,” Shane says, leaning back in his seat. “But I was tickled to death that I even got to call.”
One year later, Shane qualified for the final round of the 2006 Grand Nationals, ultimately finishing in 12th place. It wasn’t long before he enjoyed success at the 2007 Grand Nationals. He tied for first out of 48 competitors during the preliminary round. He held his ground, and the final round left Shane and the defending champion, Matt Van Cise, sharing the stage as the top places were revealed.
“When they announced him [Matt] being second, that whole room went nuts,” he says. “You couldn’t hear a thing.” To say Shane was excited is an understatement. “For the next three hours, I didn’t know which way was up,” he says with a laugh.
Despite the glory of a win and the competitive nature of the turkey-calling world, Shane relishes his opportunities to meet people and to share tricks of the trade. “When I first started, nobody wanted to give up any secrets,” he says. “Nobody wanted to help you out unless they knew you real well.”
And it was then that he made a vow. “I said, ‘If I ever get to that point where somebody wants my opinion and if I can help them in any way, on calling or hunting or something, I’ll help them.’”
For those entering more competitive turkey-calling tournaments, Shane suggests learning the bird’s natural rhythm and cadence. “If you can make [the judges] think that’s a hen walking around in the woods with your rhythms and your sounds without messing up, you’ve got it made,” he says.
Like any sport, Shane says the key to being a top turkey caller is practice. In the months leading up to a tournament, it’s not uncommon for him to spend up to four hours a day preparing.
Although Shane’s journey over the past decade has been filled with trophies, titles, and even the chance to perform at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, one simple experience stands out above the rest.
“At Nationals this year, we got done, and there was a big group of people around me, and most of them were kids,” Shane says, unable to hide his grin. “And one little kid, he told me, ‘I just think you’re cool.’ And I was like, ‘I think you’re pretty cool