The Star Democrat

Calling champions converge at 50th Waterfowl Festival

Millington native Trevor Shannahan wins top honors

- BY ERIC JOHNSON JR.

EASTON — It’s a good thing the 2021 World Waterfowl Calling Championsh­ips were held indoors at Easton High School. Were they held outdoors, thousands of geese and ducks would no doubt have descended upon the competitor­s, each of whom possessed the uncanny ability to replicate distinct waterfowl sounds.

The final event on Saturday, Nov. 13, the second day of the contests, made clear that contestant­s gathered as both rivals and as dear friends, in many cases. They hailed from as far away as Alaska, as far south as Florida, and as close as Easton and Millington on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At the 50th Waterfowl Festival, the 44th duck and goose calling contests were truly mesmerizin­g. To suggest these young men were simply good at imitating the calls of birds would be a gross understate­ment.

Beyond the almost supernatur­al replicatio­n of goose and duck calling sounds, these contestant­s had moves like Jagger and LeBron, and the artistic expression of da Vinci. As they orchestrat­ed carefully rehearsed performanc­es they moved their mouths, hands, arms, and bodies in countless ways to achieve the exact sequence of sounds needed to win.Theirs was a full body sport to be taken seriously by those in attendance.

Teddy Hoover of Preston turned 34 on the second day of the championsh­ips and has been competing

since he was 12.

“To get started, an interested contestant should obtain a goose call which can cost anywhere from $25 to upwards of $300,” said Hoover. “And you get to compete against a close, tight-knit group.”

Hoover added that he has six out-of-state contestant­s staying at his house.

Fifteen-year-old James Steel of Swedesboro, New Jersey, has been competing since he was eight years old and won the Junior World Live Duck Calling Championsh­ip.

“Practice makes perfect,” said Steel. “This is part of my routine on which I focus, practicing at least two hours a day.

Alden Pugh, 14, of Berryville, Virginia, won the Junior World Championsh­ip Goose Calling Contest and admitted he was exceptiona­lly nervous.

“My nerves were insane,” Pugh said. “The kid competing next to me said he could hear my heart beating.”

Junior duck calling contestant­s were asked to portray in 60 seconds a picture of live ducks sitting on water, flying in the air, and making their natural sounds. For the junior goose calling contestant­s, they were challenged to get the attention of an imaginary flock of geese, call them close, lose them, call them back, and land the geese in what were staged decoys — all in 90 seconds or less.

While the junior competitio­n dates back to 2014 for duck calling and 1976 for goose calling, 2021 marked a first for the championsh­ips, introducin­g two new team contests.

Pairs of contestant­s linked up for the new World Championsh­ip Team Live Duck Calling and World Championsh­ip Team Live Goose Calling categories. Cory Niccum of Gardener, Kansas, and Mike Benjamin of Rochester, Minnesota, took home the first-ever Team Duck Calling Contest, while Benjamin would win again for the Team Goose Calling Contest with his teammate, Trevor Shannahan of Okeechobee, Florida.

Trevor Shannahan, originally from Millington, Maryland, enjoyed a first — and a last — during the event. After winning the first-ever team goose competitio­n, he would go on to compete in his final event ever — the World Goose Calling Championsh­ip of Champions. Competing only every five years, contestant­s in the championsh­ip of champions event must retire from competitio­n after winning.

In addition to winning both of the team contests, Mike Benjamin took home first place wins in two additional categories: the World Championsh­ip Live Goose Calling Contest and the World Championsh­ip Live Duck Calling Contest.

Arguably the event’s “pied piper” of waterfowl calling, Benjamin has been competing since 2007 and reports having made some of the best friends he’s ever had while competing for eight years in Easton.

After sweeping four categories, Benjamin was asked if he had anything to say to the audience.

“When you’re on a roll, you better butter it,” he joked.

Lee Williams of Southerlan­d, Virginia, took home the event’s largest cash prize of $7,500 (among other prizes) by winning the World Championsh­ip Goose Calling Contest. As the longest running goose calling championsh­ip in the nation, this contest required competitor­s to paint their own unique picture of goose calling in 90 seconds or less in a kind of free style assortment of different communicat­ions on the part of the bird.

Waterfowl calling competitio­n requires patience and a lot of practicing according to the contestant­s. And if you are afraid of losing, the sport is not for you.

“Don’t be afraid of losing,” Niccum said. “You will lose more than you win.”

 ?? PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON ?? Mike Benjamin of Rochester, Minnesota, won four calling categories: World Championsh­ip Team Live Goose Calling Contest, World Championsh­ip Team Live Duck Calling Contest, World Championsh­ip Live Goose Calling Contest and World Championsh­ip Live Duck Calling Contest. Beside him are his four hand-carved and painted first prize ducks and geese by Charles Jobes Decoys of Havre de Grace.
PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON Mike Benjamin of Rochester, Minnesota, won four calling categories: World Championsh­ip Team Live Goose Calling Contest, World Championsh­ip Team Live Duck Calling Contest, World Championsh­ip Live Goose Calling Contest and World Championsh­ip Live Duck Calling Contest. Beside him are his four hand-carved and painted first prize ducks and geese by Charles Jobes Decoys of Havre de Grace.
 ?? PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON ?? James Steel, left, of Swedenboro, New Jersey, won the Junior World Live Duck Calling Championsh­ip, and Alden Pugh of Berryville, Virginia, won the Junior World Championsh­ip Goose Calling Contest.
PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON James Steel, left, of Swedenboro, New Jersey, won the Junior World Live Duck Calling Championsh­ip, and Alden Pugh of Berryville, Virginia, won the Junior World Championsh­ip Goose Calling Contest.
 ?? PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON ?? Trevor Shannahan, left, of Okeechobee, Florida, won the World Championsh­ip Team Live Goose Calling Contest the World Goose Calling Championsh­ip of Champions, and Cory Niccum of Gardener, Kansas, won the World Championsh­ip Team Live Duck Calling Contest.
PHOTO BY ERIC JOHNSON Trevor Shannahan, left, of Okeechobee, Florida, won the World Championsh­ip Team Live Goose Calling Contest the World Goose Calling Championsh­ip of Champions, and Cory Niccum of Gardener, Kansas, won the World Championsh­ip Team Live Duck Calling Contest.
 ?? MARYLAND GOV PICS/FLICKR ?? Gov. Larry Hogan gives a challenge medal to Easton Police Lt. George Paugh during the 50th Waterfowl Festival on Sunday, Nov. 14, in downtown Easton. On bicycle patrol in the background is 1st Sgt. Eric Kellner.
MARYLAND GOV PICS/FLICKR Gov. Larry Hogan gives a challenge medal to Easton Police Lt. George Paugh during the 50th Waterfowl Festival on Sunday, Nov. 14, in downtown Easton. On bicycle patrol in the background is 1st Sgt. Eric Kellner.
 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO ?? Waterfowl Festival 2021 souvenirs and swag, like the T-shirt featuring red lab retrievers Briggs and Gauge, sold out during the 50th celebratio­n.
CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO Waterfowl Festival 2021 souvenirs and swag, like the T-shirt featuring red lab retrievers Briggs and Gauge, sold out during the 50th celebratio­n.

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