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World's Championship Duck Calling Contest

The World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest is held every Thanksgiving weekend in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The winner is named the World Champion Duck Caller. To qualify for the contest, a contestant must win a preliminary state or regional duck-calling contest sanctioned by the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce and held in one of thirty-eight states. A preliminary contest is also held in Canada for Canadian residents.

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 both 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.

Each contestant is required to perform a ninety-second routine. Each routine must include a hail call, feed call, mating call, and comeback call. A panel of five judges scores each contestant, with the high and low score thrown out. Cumulative scores are totaled after three rounds.

Contestants can compete in several other divisions, including a Women’s World, Junior World, Intermediate World, and Junior Women’s. A scholarship contest, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, is open to any high school senior in the United States, with the top four finishers receiving scholarships. The Champion of Champions Duck Calling Contest is held every five years, inviting former world winners to compete against each other to determine the best of the best.

Since the first contest was held, the yearly event has grown to become a truly national and international contest. The contest grew in part because of Stuttgart’s location in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway, the traditional migratory route for ducks flying south for the winter from Canada. The ducks are also attracted to the area because the rice grown there provides an excellent food source for their journey.

The World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest is part of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival, which celebrates duck season in Arkansas. Events include the World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-off, a sportsman’s party, arts and crafts, commercial exhibits, off-road vehicle exhibitions, a carnival and midway, and a ten-kilometer race.

For additional information:
World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest. http://www.stuttgartarkansas.org/duck-festival/worlds_championship_duck_contest.aspx (accessed August 13, 2014). .

Stephen Bell
Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce

Last Updated 8/13/2014

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