Andrew Dys

His warble is sweet music to turkeys -- as well as judges

VIDEO of Henry Crocker demonstrating turkey calls. CLICK HERE

Clucks. Purrs. Cackles and warbles and yelps.

And yeah, gobbles, too.

Nobody in South Carolina talks turkey like Rock Hill's Henry Crocker, the reigning state turkey calling champion. And in a few days, Crocker with the magic mouth that sounds like a live turkey looking for love takes on the world.

Crocker is a professional caller, making money on the road weekends like a honky tonk singer or anybody else who gets paid for being a top dog at what he does.

Next week, Crocker takes his calls to Alabama for the biggest prize on Earth for turkey callers, the National Wild Turkey Federation world championships. Only the best in the world get invited.

Crocker calls by using a hand-held slate disc or by mouth caller. He even calls with no caller at all, just his mouth after 22 years of practice.

"You know the birds are coming down in the morning after daybreak when you hear this next one," said Crocker before using a tiny mouth call in his rendition of his 'fly down cackle."

It's the female turkey that yelps -- the licentious ones, probably -- and the male toms that warble because they are looking for a little action.

Try that at home tonight and see where it gets you.

But turkey calling is serious business for Crocker and others in contests. There are competitions all over the Southeast and some other states for prize money and prestige. He has competed and been a judge in the national and world championships.

All contest calling is done within earshot, but out of sight, from a panel of judges. Judges can't see the contestants so that the sound is all they judge.

"One tiny difference in those big contests is the difference between winning and not," Crocker said.

The title of reigning state champion in turkey calling in South Carolina is a big deal. The National Wild Turkey Federation, with more than a half-million members from chapters in all 50 states and 16 countries, is headquartered in Edgefield.

Crocker calls for Legacy Game Calls, owned by another local turkey calling bigshot, William Terry of Van Wyck in Lancaster County. Callers using Legacy calls have won nine of the past 10 state titles, and Terry himself is a five-time state champion who will also compete in the world championships.

This year, Crocker edged legendary callers such as Terry, Kenneth "Skeet" Thomas of Chester, and 45 other competitors for state bragging rights.

"Henry is a good caller, no doubt about it," Terry said. "This year for the state he beat me with my own call."

Crocker, a stickler about proper game conservation, started calling as a young kid at the urging of his father, Eugene. He began competitive calling at 16 and has never looked back. He called in his spare time when he worked in the car and motorcycle businesses. He has recorded his calls to listen to later, just to refine his sound.

Since becoming a franchise owner of the Quiznos Sub restaurant on Dave Lyle Boulevard at Manchester Village a couple of years ago, he's traveled to even more tournaments.

Yes, there is a turkey sandwich at Crocker's Quiznos Sub store. Yes, Crocker eats turkey. No, Crocker doesn't call his store's turkey sub, "The Gobbler" or "The Fly Down Cackle" or anything else.

But maybe Crocker wins the world championship next weekend. Then, the whole country at Thanksgiving will take a nap after a toast and eating turkey in honor of Rock Hill's own avian audio aria singer.

Warble on, Henry Crocker. Make us all proud. Bring home that turkey title.

To see a video of Henry Crocker demonstrating turkey calls, click on "Related Content" under this story on the front page of heraldonline.com

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