The 1936 World Duck Calling Champion was awarded a new hunting jacket, worth about $6. As the contest grew, so did the prize package, now worth more than $15,000 in cash and other awards. With the larger purse, the competition has intensified and, as the contest plays out throughout the day, bystanders witness both excitement and disappointment.
"The contestants take so much pride in blowing on that stage on Main Street," said Marty Simpson, rules committee chairman for the 2012 World's Championship Duck Calling Contest. "I am back in the contestants' trailer, so I get to see them all before they come out. They are nervous and many try to stay busy cleaning their calls. They know there is a crowd out there and this is the biggest stage in our sport. It's a cool thing to see."
The World's Championship Duck Calling Contest got its start in 1936 and has blossomed into the centerpiece of a weeklong "Wings Over the Prairie Festival," complete with carnival, a duck gumbo cook-off, mallard queen contests, and a celebration of a community embracing its nickname: Rice and Duck Hunting Capital of the World.
The field of competitors was cut to 33 following the completion of the first round. Seventeen callers remained after the second round. Each of finalists then performed a third 90-second routine. After scores were totaled, a six-way call-off was required to decide the championship.
His Rich-N-Tone Calls (RNT) cap pulled down low over his brow during the final round, Allen maintained a consistent, high-quality performance that separated him from the rest of the field. David St. John of Conway, Arkansas, claimed runner-up honors, while Rob Bevins of Belle Plaine, Iowa, was third, and Jonathan Mortin of Trumann, Arkansas, finished fourth.