By Chris Jennings
A constant racket of feeding chatter and hail calls echoed throughout the Cabela's store in Kansas City, Kansas, this past weekend as some of the finest duck callers in the nation competed for one of the largest cash payouts ever awarded in a calling contest. Cabela's sponsored this unsanctioned competition, which offered $10,000 for the first-place winner. When the last caller fell silent and the judges' votes were all tallied, 25-year-old Antonio Jones of Little Rock, Ark., stepped forward to claim the big prize.
Minutes before the contest began, Jones, who is a Rich-N-Tone (RNT) pro-staffer, reached for a call he had never blown before. He was handed the new DC Diablo by RNT President John Stephens, who was manning the company's booth during the contest. A few hours later, Jones held his new favorite call in one hand and an oversized check for $10,000 in the other.
"This is just great, man," Jones said, with tears of joy streaming down his face. He shook hands with other callers and received a hug from Jim Ronquest, producer of RNT-V and a past world's champion duck caller. "You work so hard for something for so long, and the other callers here are excellent. It's a good feeling to get a win."
Jones has worked as a waterfowl hunting
guide since he was 17, but his current full-time position with Balcones Resources is what made his trip to Kansas City a reality. Balcones Resources CEO Rusty Getter, who hunts with Jones in the fall, offered him sponsorship for the contest.
"He told me that he knew it meant a lot to me and how bad I wanted to call in the competition," Jones explained. "They are such great people, and he offered to sponsor my trip up here. It was a blessing."
Butch Richenback, founder of RNT Calls, said Jones' work ethic was a major factor in his development as a competitive caller.
"I'm real happy for Antonio. I remember his mother used to drop him off on Sundays when he was young, and he stuck with it," Richenback said. "A lot of kids quit, but he stuck with it and worked hard. I'm real proud of him. He'll keep winning too, because he's a good caller, and he works at it. I expect to see him on Main Street one day— maybe this year."
While Jones is elated to have this victory under his belt, he has his eye on an even bigger prize. Next weekend is a sanctioned competition with four qualifying spots for the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Arkansas.
"I've worked really hard, and to be honest, it has been a long hard road," Jones said. "But my big personal goal is to win the world's championship."
Watch video of Antonio Jones' calling routine.
Top Five Callers - Cabelas Kansas City Open Duck Calling
1. Antonio Jones, Little Rock, Ark.
2 Dustin Darbin, Caldwell, Idaho
3. Bret Crowe, Chico, Calif.
4. Cory Niccum, Olathe, Kan.
5. Kent Cullum, Monette, ark.