Anna’s Turkey Call

Touching story of a young hunter who lost her life too soon, but her dad made sure her turkey call went hunting.

Reader Contributed | April 2, 2023

Dr. Anna E. Butler’s dad Marion with the Oconee County gobbler he rolled on April 19, 2022 that completed the Grand Slam using Anna’s pot call. The call was painted in red and black and made by Lon Trice with Lonzo’s Custom Calls. The call was intended to be given to Anna at her PhD graduation celebration from UGA. She lost her life to an acute asthma attack on Dec. 30, 2020 and became an organ donor. She was a board-certified behavioral analyst and ran a clinic for special needs and autistic children and their families.

By Marion A. Butler

It seems like every turkey hunter has their favorite call or calls that are always with them on a hunt, and this call was no exception. I came across the “Old Gobbler” website and forum and there was a lot of discussion about the call makers convention at Unicoi State Park in Helen. While on this forum, one call maker’s name came up about the quality of their calls and how easy they were to run. The call maker’s name is Lon Trice from Bronwood (Lonzo’s Custom Calls). 

If you are a turkey hunter, then you need to put Unicoi on your calendar every January. I was totally amazed by the number of call makers in one convention room on my trip there. My first stop was to Lonzo’s table to make my purchase of two of his pot calls, one glass pot call and one grey slate pot.  

When I returned home, I was running the call and my daughter Anna said, “it ought to be against the law to take this call hunting.” I called Lon and told him the story, and he said he would make a call for her. I decided to have him make one with a glass surface and in UGA colors or as close as he could get to the red and black, and I would give it to her as a graduation gift when she received her PhD.  

Once it arrived, I tucked it away in my office desk, bringing it out occasionally to admire its beauty. Anna would make it a point to go hunting with me a couple of times a year, even with her busy and stressful schedule.  She was an excellent turkey hunter as she knew what to do and when to do it. She had a couple of occasions to shoot a jake but would always pass on them, saying that she was waiting for a mature tom. I believe she went with me so we could spend time together and enjoy the beauty of the spring season. It was not about the shooting of a turkey at all, even though she loved hearing and seeing them in the wild. 

In 2020, we experienced a worldwide pandemic and the COVID-19 virus delayed her graduation and her doctorate degree.

Christmas Day of 2020 found Anna and my other daughter Catherine at our house as they dropped by for lunch to see us. We had celebrated Christmas a week earlier because of scheduling all four of our children to be home at once. Christmas night Anna had an acute asthma attack, and on Dec. 30, 2020, she gave the gift of life by becoming an organ donor. Her passing has created a big hole in our hearts, and our lives have been forever changed. 

I gave it a lot of thought as to what I wanted and needed to do with her call and it dawned on me that I should enlist the help of others to use it for a North American slam of the four sub-species: the Osceola, Eastern, Rio and Merriam’s. My co-worker suggested that I contact a good friend of his named Will Gaissert that had a few hunting trips planned for 2021. I contacted Will, and he was delighted to help, and he put me in touch with Ricky Padgett, owner of Spring Allure Game Calls out of Rowesville, SC. I told Ricky what I was trying to accomplish, and he graciously agreed to take a call that he did not make with him to Florida for an Osceola hunt.

On March 13, 2021, I received a text from Ricky with a stud of an Osceola that he bagged in Florida along with his son. After this hunt, it was back to Will for a hunt in Texas. On April 3, 2021, I received a text from him with his Rio and another text on May 1, 2021, with his Merriman from the state of Washington. 

Being late in the season, I did not have any success and put the call away for another year. The 2021 season was hard on me, and honestly, I did not have the desire to go. 

Anna with a buck taken around 2013 in Oconee County. She celebrates with her dad and boykin spaniel, Hershey.

Opening weekend of the 2022 season the birds were gobbling and with hens, but nothing was in range. That afternoon I had a bird see me move the gun on him. It seemed like every time I went, the gobblers were with hens, and the only birds that came to the party were jakes. Things were about to change on April 19, when I decided not to go to my Rotary club meeting that morning.

The morning started off like most mornings, hearing nothing from the roost or gobbling on the roost and becoming silent once they hit the ground. I had covered a couple of miles that morning and was headed back to the truck when I stopped on a ridge and called both with a mouth call and then with Anna’s call. Immediately when I yelped and cutt on her pot call, I heard a bird across the ridge. I called again and could tell he had cut the distance in half. I knew then that it would not be long before I saw a red head staring at me. One more yelp on her pot call and not one but two gobblers were in front of me at 60 yards, then 50 yards, then at 40 yards. At that point, the Benelli 20 gauge with TSS No. 9s that I hand-loaded hit its mark. The slam had been completed.

With this TSS shot, the bird hardly flopped when I picked him up and walked back to the tree where I was sitting. After the adrenaline rush, it occurred to me what had been accomplished, and the tears started to roll. At that time, I felt Anna’s presence with me. By the time I called my wife to tell her that I just retired Anna’s call, I was weeping, and she knew by the phone call what had taken place. All kind of emotions were running through me at that time, both of sadness and happiness.

After a little research, I reached out to Maytom Wood Works, and together we designed the stand to hold the tail feathers, beard, shell, spurs and wing bone yelper. Tony EZ Holt in Pennsylvania made the yelper that is on the display. 

So why did I write this story? Sure, it was about my daughter’s call, but you also have the opportunity every day to help someone less fortunate, and you can also sign up to be an organ doner just as she had done. All you have to do is check the box when you get or renew your driver’s licenses. Please consider giving the gift of life as she did. 

Anna’s call was retired on April 19, 2022. It completed a Grand Slam on turkeys during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

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  1. JNicoli on April 3, 2023 at 7:56 am

    What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us

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