Families gathered at the Child Development Center were probably distracted by the series of raucous quacking sounds coming from Los Banos Junior High just across the parking lot.
Approximately 30 people showed up at the junior high to participate in the California State and Grasslands Regional Duck and Goose Calling Championships on Saturday.
The winner of the event will compete in Stuttgart, Ark., the Saturday after Thanksgiving for the world title.
"This is a sanctioned event. It's the real deal for people playin' it," said Reg Bravo, who was acting as the emcee for the contest.
Bravo, who is a member of the Pro Staff with Hevi-Shot Ammunition and Mossy Oak Brand Camo, kept the event rolling as he called the participants to the junior high quad by number -- so as to keep the judges from learning their names.
"Behind [this sponsor wall] are judges in their booths and they are all gonna separately judge what they're hearing -- without knowing who is the one calling," explained Bravo. "At each round there will be one or two guys cut with the others moving on. There will be three rounds in this competition."
To the untrained ear, the clamor made by the duck-callers during the competition might at first seem more like a piercing cacophony of loud obnoxious buzzes rather than a duck quacking while looking for food or a mate. That is, however, an integral part of the competition.
One of the contestants, Dave Martinez of Sylmar explained. "Some of this is not what a duck does," he said simply. "At the very beginning of our contest is the hail call -- where you hear that beep, beep, beep, beep, you know, like 30 notes or something like that. That's trying to show your control of the call. So you'd never do that in a hunting situation.
"A duck does not do that."
With a big grin, Bravo took it a step further, joking that if someone had blown a duck call near him while he was hunting, (in the way the competitors do while participating in the contest), he'd probably turn around and shoot the caller himself.
Martinez continued, "[The judges] want you to do the hail, which is 30-40 notes for some people, then you come down into a greeting call and you do a feed call, and then you do a come-back call, and then you come back down into a feeding call and then you set 'em down with some quacks, another feeding call and a quack, quack at the end."
Stuart McCullough of Los Banos was the chairman of the event. He has competed in more than 100 contests in 13 years with more than seven top-five finishes. He also qualified for the world championships five times and has 20 different calling titles -- but McCullough still describes himself as "a hunter first and always."
McCullough was responsible for networking the judges, contestants, donors, sponsors and volunteers for the event, which was previously held elsewhere.
"These events were held in Modesto for years and due to some ... events, the venue is back here in the grasslands where it originated in 2000," McCullough said.
"We happen to be the only regional this side of Texas, so it's a pretty special event to us," McCullough said. "There are callers from three different states for both the duck and the goose."
Despite the importance of the competition in the calling community, McCullough wished for better attendance this year.
"We were hoping for a larger youth attendance, but Nevada has their youth hunt day today and California, for the first time, just opened up their early season goose hunting -- so we have people hunting geese and we missed out on some opportunity," he said.
"These events won't be scheduled this late in the calling season anymore. We got bumped and we had to make it happen."
McCullough praised the team that helped put it all together.
"No one is getting paid out of this," he said. "Everybody just shows up to help support the sport and those people that are going on to compete at another level."
"We're very happy that the environmental club helped out so we could have this beautiful facility at the junior high," said McCullough who noted that club members had helped out with the lunches as well.
"We had 14 different events today, starting with junior and intermediate duck, going through all the Canada goose to the two sanctioned contests for the world duck calling contest being the Grasslands Regional and the California State, following up with a speckle belly goose contest, snow goose contest and a two-man team duck calling contest."
1st --Jacob Meneffee,
1st -- Greg Hubble Jr., Bellmont
1st -- Greg Hubble Jr.
1st -- Nathan Kreshon, Valley Springs
2nd -- Dave Martinez, Sylmar
1st -- Forrest Carpenter, Longmont, Colo.
2nd -- Nathan Kreshan
3rd -- John Sperry, Reno
1st -- Tim Hudson, Los Banos
2nd -- Gene Bishop, Chico
3rd -- Jeff Smith, Durham
4th -- Forrest Carpenter
5th -- Joe Clark, Palmdale
1st -- Stuart Mattos, Chico
2nd -- Craig Wilson, California
3rd -- Joe Clark, Palmdale
4th -- Gene Bishop
5th -- Mike Dardinski, Galt
1st -- Greg Hubble Jr.
1st -- Ken White, Manteca
2nd -- James Rathjen, Concord
3rd -- Ben Williams,
1st -- Ken White
2nd -- Ben Williams,
3rd -- Rick Hoppis,
1st -- Bret Crowe, Chico, and Tim Hudson
2nd -- Ken White
and James Rathjen
3rd -- Ken White
and Forrest Carpenter