CALL CRAZY: Vicksburg Business Owner Brad Eldridge competing in Duck Call Competition
Published 4:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2022
Vicksburg business owner Brad Eldridge has been making duck calls for only two years, but the novice craftsman is already getting national attention.
The owner of Parish Waterfowl Company, located at 1100 Washington St., Eldridge is one of eight competitors selected to compete in the annual Callapalooza Callmakers Build-off competition.
“It’s me and seven other call makers in the country who have the honor of being invited, and we are going to — in the most pure form of call-making competition there is – making on a flat jig in two hours (a duck call),” Eldridge said.
Sponsored by Rich-N-Tone Calls, Inc., owned and operated by Duck Calling Champion John Stevens, the festival is set to kick off on May 31 and will be held at the retail facility, 2315 Highway 63 N., in Stuttgart, Ark.
The first round of the Callmakers Build-off competition will begin at 7 a.m. June 1 and Eldridge said he and three other novice duck call makers will be paired with four veteran craftsmen.
This is the third year the competition has been part of the festival, Eldridge said. Therefore, some competitors will be returning.
“It’s kind of been the same teams in the past because these guys are like the best,” he said.
Eldridge described the first round of competition as one in which each of the novice competitors competes one-on-one with a respective veteran competitor.
Craftsmen are given two hours in Stevens’ call shop, which is located inside the retail store, to construct and build their duck call.
While Eldridge will be working with a seasoned call maker of 15 years, he said, he feels optimistic he can win against him in the first round, since it is the competition round that focuses mainly on the sound of the call.
During the short time he has been making duck calls, Eldridge said he happened on a design that allows the tone board of his calls to closely replicate the varying tonal sounds made by ducks, whether close by or far away.
But before this occurred, he said, “I made about 100 calls using a flat jig and they sounded really bad,” he said.
Bad, meaning not that the sounds were bad, but they were inconsistent with each call, Eldridge explained.
However, with trial and error, which included the sanding, cutting and tweaking of the tone board and reed and cork, both of which are necessary for a call, Eldridge said that he was finally able to craft a call that gave him the sounds he had been working toward.
And to ensure he would be able to create replicas, Eldridge said, he sent the tonal board of the call to a machinist where they patterned a jig in the shape of his model.
Eldridge has been using his prototype jig to construct duck calls, but during the first round of the Callmakers Build-off competition rules are that all competitors must use a standard jig, he said.
Although competitors must work from a flat jig when constructing portions of the call, they are allowed to bring their own tools and wood lathe.
After the two-hour time limit is reached, to keep the competition fair, Eldridge said, Stevens will then blow the calls for trained judges.
One competitor from each of the four teams will advance to the second round of the competition.
“In the second round, you will go heads-up against another opponent,” Eldridge said.
Like the first round, Eldridge said, the competition time is also limited to two hours, but competitors are allowed to use their custom jigs. And once again, Stevens will blow the calls for the judges to determine who will advance.
After the second round of competition, the two winners will advance to the finals.
Eldridge said this round is heavily weighted on the design, and competitors will be allotted four hours to construct their call.
“The last round is something decorative,” Eldridge said, meaning the outward appearance of the call will be the determining factor in who wins.
The three rounds of the Callmakers Build-off competition will be spread out over four days – June 1 through 4 – with the first round of the competition spanning two days. Eldridge said this will allow all eight competitors the opportunity to work out of Stevens’ call shop.
Because Stevens’ shop has viewing windows, much like the ones in Eldridge’s business, the public will be able to watch the craftsmen as they create their calls.
Awards will be presented at 5 p.m. on the last day of the competition.
All calls made during the competition will be on display for public viewing at The Flying Duck Taproom, also located in the Rich-N-Tone retail facility.
The following week, all duck calls will be auctioned off, with proceeds being donated to the Callmakers and Collectors Association of America.
In addition to Eldridge, competitors include Kent Eason, Colton Thompson, Landon Uhlenhopp, Channing Correa, Andrew Hadden, Joey D’Amico and Brent Hoover.