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South Carolina Duck Calling Contest winners chosen

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The South Carolina state duck-calling contest is held at winter’s end in Georgetown during the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival.

Contest organizer Mark Ackerman of Cottageville brought a panel of judges with him, and contestants from around the Palmetto State assemble for the one-day competition. A trio of duck calling experts rounded out the top three spots in 2013, with Ed Paul from the South Carolina Waterfowl Association taking the top spot.

Some duck calling enthusiasts come to compete in the state contest simply to check it off their bucket list. Others, however, like Ed Paul, dare to claim the first place prize, which sends them on to Stuttgart, Arkansas for the National Calling Contest. Paul, now 27 years old, is no stranger to higher competition, having competed in and won the Junior National Contest title back in 1999.

Colletonians familiar with Camp Woodie and the S.C. Waterfowl Association already know Ed Paul as the Camp Director. He is there all summer long, overseeing staff and volunteers as flock after flock of youth come to camp in order to learn more about the waterfowling heritage and the shooting sports. Besides being a champion duck caller, Paul is a well-spoken and clean-cut fellow, who is married and is also a recent father.

The state duck-calling contest involves three separate rounds of calling routines, with the judges sequestered in a tent behind the stage, so that they cannot see any contestant. Random numbers assigned to contestants rather than names also help the judges grade them solely on how their duck calling sounds. After two rounds that include all the contestants, the field is whittled down to five final contestants vying for three places in the final round.

Ed Paul blows a Force competition call made by Big Lake Duck Calls in Elloree. It was ironic that Big Lake callmaker Hugh McLaurin was also in the finals of the state duck contest, but finished in fourth place. “I am so happy that Ed will be blowing a Big Lake duck call in Stuttgart,” said McLaurin. “The national contest is at Thanksgiving every year, so he will have lots of time to practice his competition routine.”

Finishing in second place was Mark Prudhomme of Georgetown. Prudhomme is affiliated with Knight and Hale calls for his prowess with a turkey call. It seems his second hobby is blowing a duck call, and his best efforts very nearly gave him the duck contest title in 2013. Prudhomme had just returned from the NWTF national convention in Nashville where he won four national calling titles including Champion of Champions.

Third place in the state duck contest went to 16-year-old Blake Hodge of Lancaster. Blowing a Rich-N-Tone call, Hodge was one chance note away from claiming the title. In 2012, Hodge won the junior state calling contest, and then went on to compete in the national contest in Stuttgart. Hodge and his father run the Wrecking Crew waterfowl guide service in Lancaster County.

While the duck-calling contest is serious competition, there is never a finer display of sportsmanship after the competition, after the yearly bragging rights have been decided. Swapping stories from past duck hunts or talking about duck hunting gear is always a part of the picture.

The junior state duck-calling contest for youths age 15 and under is also run by Ackerman. At the end of the competition, 10-year-old Benjamin Biddle of Conway took home the first place trophy, earning a trip to Stuttgart. In second place was Jonah Brown, and in third place was Cody Singleton, both from nearby Conway, South Carolina. Colletonian youth callers should mark their calendars for the first weekend of March in 2014, and plan a trip to compete in the state duck calling contest!   Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com