Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest Winner Claims Third Title, Retires

Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest winner Logan Hancock of Arkansas won his third title at the 2018 Wings Over the Prairie Festival. Then he retired.
Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest Winner Claims Third Title, Retires

Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest winner Logan Hancock of Arkansas won his third title at the 2018 Wings Over the Prairie Festival, the annual celebration of waterfowl hunting and competition duck calling in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

Then the 32-year-old technology engineer retired from competition.

That may sound like a great story twist straight out of Central Casting in Hollywood: man works hard for years, enjoys success and failure, wins big championship and walks away with the monstrous trophy that looks like a giant duck call. All that is true, too, because it's exactly how it happened for Hancock.

But the retirement part is a requirement for any three-time winner of the Worlds Championship Duck Calling Contest, which most people simply call "the World's." After winning three titles in the country's most prestigious calling contest, you're not allowed to compete in the event anymore.

Hancock is only the eighth person to win three championships. He joins J.E. "Jake" Gartner (last won in 1949), Edward Holt (1970), Mike McLemore (1977), Trey Crawford (1993) Barnie Calef (2000), John Stephens (2005) and Brad Allen (2013) as the only three-time champions. Seven callers won two championships.

It doesn't mean Hancock is completely retired from competition calling, though. The 3-time champs have a "Champion of Champions" contest every five years. It's tough enough to win one World's title, let alone two. Win three and among callers, you're in the immortal category.

"It's very weird," Hancock told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "This has been a huge part of my life since 2005, trying get to this stage, and once get to the stage, trying to do well and hopefully win. You retire. You don't have to go anymore. That's just weird.

"The first time, it was one of my life goals to win this thing. That happened. The first thing I did was run to hug my mom, dad, sister, wife and everybody. Tears of joy everywhere.

"The second one was, 'Really? This is happening again?' I never thought it would happen once. I remember thinking that only seven people every won this thing three times, and I could be the eighth. I just had a feeling this was going to happen."

What is Competition Calling?

What you hear on the stage at a duck or goose calling contest rarely, if ever, resembles what you'd hear in a duck blind or goose pit with greenheads or honkers sailing overhead.

That's not to say the callers don't sometimes envison themselves in a blind or pit during their routine. They can get pretty into it, almost like a Zen deal, to hit the right tones and notes during their brief moment on stage in front of a crowd.

Whether it's an 8-man event in a non-traditional waterfowl state or a big regional in the heart of duck country, each caller has his and her routines and quirks just like a golfer standing over a tee shot. They close their eyes or look up to the skies, as if watching a duck or gang of ducks over their blind. Some dip and dart, maybe take a step or two this way and that. Hit a wrong note and they try their best to not let the "Ohhhhh" of the crowd, especially at the World's, get to them, even if they know that could knock them out of the round.

Competition routines are 90 seconds long consisting of four calls: the hail call, feed or chuckle call, mating call, and comeback or lonesome hen. In a routine this is like an orchestra starting with horns blasting before tailing off to the distinctive but quieter lonesome hen.

Origins of the World's

In the mid-1920s, Verne Tindall of Stuttgart, a tiny central Arkansas town in the heart of the Mississippi Valley waterfowl flyway, flooded his rice fields and adjacent hardwood timber land over winter. Doing so created what became known as "greentree reservoirs." Migrating ducks found food in the rice and other vegetation along with comfortable habitat for roosting and loafing amid the timber.

Duck hunting had been a thing in Arkansas before this. But once waterfowlers saw what happened when they could concentrate ducks on the flooded rice fields and timber holes, it exploded in popularity. Wealthy landowners bought vast tracts for private hunting clubs. Hunters from all over, known as "sports," arrived by rail and car to hunt the famed Arkansas Grand Prairie. Legendary outdoor writer Nash Buckingham immortalized the region, writing about Beaver Dam in northwest Mississippi and Arkansas' outstanding hunting. He lost his prized shotgun, Bo Whoop, on a road near Stuttgart after propping it against the bumper and then driving away before remembering his mistake.

Roughly 10 years after Tindall flooded his property to create, arguably, the waterfowl Mecca of America, the World's Championship Calling Contest got its beginnings. Today, callers must win a contest santioned by the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce in one of 38 states or Canada. In the early years, if you were confident enough, you could just show up and register.

Historical accountings of those early years are as follows:

The first National Duck Calling Contest was held on Main Street in Stuttgart on November 24, 1936, in connection with the annual Arkansas Rice Carnival. It was sponsored by American Legion Post No. 48. The contest was originated by Thad McCollum of Stuttgart after a dispute broke out among local duck hunters as to who was the best duck caller. A contest was created to settle the dispute.

Dr. H. V. Glenn convinced the American Legion to sponsor the contest. The American Legion then appointed a Duck Calling Committee of three men, with Glenn as chairman and McCollum and Arthur Shoemaker responsible for staging the event. Later, Verne Tindall of Stuttgart replaced Shoemaker as a committee member, and the contest was held. Thanksgiving was chosen because it occurs during Arkansas’s duck season.

Seventeen people participated in the first contest in 1936. The winner was Thomas E. Walsh of Greenville, Mississippi, who won the contest by producing the sounds in his throat rather than using a duck call. His prize was a hunting coat valued at $6.60, purchased by the American Legion from John Oberly Clothing Store.

The only other contestant to win first prize without use of a duck call was Herman Callouet of Greenville, Mississippi, who won the event in 1942. The only woman to ever win the contest was Pat Peacock of Stuttgart, who won in 1955 and 1956. In 1947, the contest began offering a cash prize of $1,000. Today’s winner receives a prize package worth more than $15,000.

Take a look at legendary caller and hunter Butch Richenback, founder of RNT Calls, as he explains the competition routine from start to finish. Along with his breakdown is a caller on stage at the World's Championship on a rainy night in Stuttgart.


Featured image: Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce


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