Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Soper wins state duck calling championship


Germantown, Wis. A total of 27 duck and goose callers competed
in the Wisconsin State Duck and Goose Calling Championship in late
August. After three rounds of calling, Stu Soper, of Darlington,
was crowned the champion state duck caller, and John Volkman, of
Neenah, was named champion state goose caller.

The competition, co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Waterfowl
Association, Inc., and Gander Mountain, was held outside the Gander
Mountain store in Germantown.

The store is adjacent to a small pond, and it was appropriate
that during the practice session prior to the goose calling
competition, the contestants called in a flock of local giant
Canada geese.

Duck calling

The duck calling championship was judged by Tim Gesch of
Woodruff, Mert Jorgenson of Racine, Ed Larson of Onalaska, Andy
Nelson of Horicon, and this reporter. Jorgenson, Larson and Gesch
are past state or regional champions, and Gesch won the World
Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Ark., in 1991.

Seventeen callers performed 90-second routines, simulating
calling to a flock of ducks at a distance. Judges are expected to
be able to visualize the flock’s location from the caller at all

The callers use the hail (long-distance) call, the feeding
(chatter) call, comeback call, and the lonesome hen call.
Contestants also are judged on the overall routine.

The routine is scored for volume, clarity and realism.

The judges sit within 10 feet of the callers, but are shielded
by a tent so that they don’t know who’s calling. The callers draw
straws to determine their order and are provided with a 10-second
warning before their time limit expires.

During the opening round of the duck calling competition, three
callers were disqualified because they exceeded the 90-second time

Of the original 17 callers, the judges brought back 11 callers
for the second round and five callers for the final round.

The top duck callers were: Soper, first place; Matt Egge of
Ferryville, second place; Dale Mertely of Montello, third place;
Jerry Rowland of Green Bay, fourth place; and Mitch Kratochvill of
Prairie du Chien, fifth place.

Soper, who blows a James Carlson Duck Call and hunts the
Mississippi River near Potosi, competed in three earlier Wisconsin
contests, last year placing fourth. He also competes in regional
calling contests.

“I just tried to blow a clean routine, and be consistent in my
presentation,” Soper said. “Usually, if you can blow three clean
routines, you’ll do OK in competition.”

Soper won the right to represent Wisconsin and compete in the
World Championship Calling Contest in Stuttgart this November. The
Wisconsin native is a member of WWA, Ducks Unlimited, and Delta
Waterfowl, and also won $500 cash and a plaque.

Ed Larson, who won the state calling championship in 1999, 2000
and 2001, and blows Rich N Tone Duck Call, said the callers in the
final round all had good routines. He said they only had to polish
their routines a little to be able to contend in Stuttgart.

Goose calling

Ten callers competed in the state goose calling championship.
The competition was judged by Gesch, Jerry Rowland of Green Bay,
Dale Mertely, Nelson, Joe Loehlein of Oneida and this reporter.
Rowland and Loehlein have won the state goose calling contest three
years each and, as three-time winners, are prohibited from
competing again.

Similar to duck calling, the judges are asked to visualize a
flock of Canada geese and the callers bringing the birds into
decoys. The callers blow the attention, greeting, lay-down, cluck,
and comeback calls, and also are judged on the overall routine.

Winning goose callers are usually excellent at simulating a
flock of geese calling to distant birds. Judges attempt to listen
carefully, deducting points for squeaks, and calls that are too
long, too slow and too fast.

Ten callers competed in the first round. The judges brought six
callers back for the second and third rounds. Only four total
points separated the first and second place finishers.

The competition ended with: Volkman, first place; Ed Larson of
Onalaska, second place; Randy Southard of Black Creek, third place;
Dave Nolan of Green Bay, fourth place; Troy Dauterman of West Bend,
fifth place, and Matt Egge of Ferryville, sixth place.

Volkman has hunted geese for the past 21 years and blows an
Illusion short-reed goose call. He hunts geese in the Fox River
Valley and in Canada.

“I tried to blow a clean routine, but in truth any one of the
six finalists could have won,” Volkman said. He won a plaque and a
$250 certificate from Gander Mountain.

Mark Kakatsch, WWA calling contest coordinator, said that Gander
Mountain has helped take the annual contest to a higher level.

“The competitiveness amongst the callers was the best that I’ve
seen, and the contest and callers has grown substantially,”
Kakatsch said. “Competition was the closest ever.”

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