Staples crowned Owl Hooting Champion at national competition

February 24, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated February 24, 2024 | 12:49 am

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Owensboro’s Hunter Staples is one of the best owl callers in the country, and he’s got the hardware to prove. The 28-year-old recently won a national competition that he said folks in the industry refer to as the Super Bowl of Owl Calling.

Staples was crowned Owl Hooting Champion in the Grand National Calling Championship at the 48th annual National Wild Turkey Federation Convention and Sports Show. More than 30 of the best callers worldwide competed in the event, held at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center last week. 

Staples was ecstatic to claim the title.

“There were over 60,000 people at the event. It was an unreal experience,” Staples said. “I’ve been turkey hunting since I was 5, so I’ve always had a call in my hands. I started competition calling in 2016.”

At the event, Staples was on stage for 1 minute and tasked with mimicking an owl call. Seven judges then evaluated each participant by only listening to them. 

Staples comes from a long line of hunters, including his father and grandfather. However, he’s the first in the family to take to competition calling and owl hooting. 

“This is something I’m passionate about,” he said. “There’s also some prize money, but more than anything, I appreciate how many people I’ve connected with and formed relationships with through the competitions.”

He said he practices fairly frequently to prepare for the competitions, including listening to owls in person while he’s hunting or just enjoying the outdoors. He also listens to owl sounds on YouTube and tries to replicate them. 

When turkeys hear an owl call, a defense mechanism triggers them to begin gobbling. This alerts hunters of their presence and is a commonly used tactic. 

Looking ahead, Staples plans to participate in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Ohio state competitions before hopefully competing in the U.S. Open in Louisiana. 

Staples also practices wildlife photography in his spare time, typically photographing turkeys. 

“The support since winning has been overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve even had 2 major outdoor publications reach out.”

February 24, 2024 | 12:15 am

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