North Carolina turkey caller Mitchell Johnston was named the Grand National Calling Champion Saturday (Feb. 20) during the National Wild Turkey Federation's National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn.

Hailing from Purlear, Johnston emerged from a preliminary field of 48 callers to win the senior division of the NWTF Grand National Calling Championships.

"It's very surreal," Johnston said. "It's obviously a dream come true. The first phone call I made was to my wife because she didn't travel here with me this year.

"As soon as I heard her voice, we both kind of lost it. It was a special moment."

he caller is no rookie in the competition, having placed fifth during last year's national championship.

t this year's convention, the calling championships featured more than $25,000 in cash and prizes.

In the senior division, callers are asked to perform a series of calls imitating a single wild turkey hen. Some of these calls include the yelp, cluck and purr, kee kee run and tree call.

A panel of seven expert judges scores each call, and the slightest mistake can virtually eliminate a caller from contention.

NWTF head George Thornton said winning the championship title is the pinnacle for a turkey hunter.

"Winning a title at the Grand National Turkey Calling Championships is like reaching the summit of a mountain," Thornton said. "There is no higher place among the turkey calling's elite. The atmosphere in the room during the trophy presentation is electric."

The newly crowned champ agreed.

"I mean this is the best feeling you can have as a turkey caller," Johnston said. "It's hitting a grand slam or winning the Super Bowl."