GUEYDAN — Brook Richard stood statuesque onstage at the Geuydan Civic Center Sunday.
The 24-year-old Lafayette native was the third caller to compete in the Louisiana State Duck Calling Contest. With his Rich-N-Tone duck call in hand, dressed in a Mossy Oak pullover, jeans and boots, Richard admitted to being nervous before taking the stage.
“When you’re back there (in the greenroom), nerves are shaking around, and everyone is anxious,” Richard said. “Everyone asks, ‘How did I sound?’ or ‘How did I do?’
“It’s scary. You’re like, ‘That guy’s blowing strong. Can I win?’ Any contest is nerve-wracking and maybe that’s why we do it. I would recommend anyone to get into it.”
Richard went through three rounds in the senior duck calling competition. He faced callers from all over Louisiana and Arkansas, ultimately winning first prize and a chance to compete in the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, Arkansas, in November.
“A long time ago, I got into competition duck calling as a curiosity,” Richard said. “There were so many people who just paved the road for me. All I had to do was follow suit and take instruction well.”
Competition in duck calling is always stiff, Richard said.
“A lot of people work very hard to get here,” he said. There isn’t one person who can walk into a room and win a contest, he said.
“You have to blow good routines,” Richard said. “The best caller can mess up, and the worst caller can blow the best three routines he’s ever blown.”
Since 1977, Gueydan has adopted the moniker of “Duck Capital of America.” The annual Duck Festival is held on the last full weekend in August as it highlights Louisiana’s hunting heritage. The first Duck Festival was first held on blocked-off streets, and it moved to its current location at the Duck Festival grounds in 1980.
Lisa Deshotels, whose 5-year-old son, Everett, finished second in the junior duck call division, said they came to Gueydan to instill this competition in the younger children.
“Everett enjoys it and had the courage to get onstage at 5,” Deshotels said. “Naturally, he hasn’t had any training. He just took the calls and tries to simulate ducks and here we go.”
Everett said he was excited that he actually got to keep the second-place plaque.
“It was super good, and I won a prize,” he said. “It felt like imagining I went to Disney World.”
According to the Duck Festival website, calling ducks for competition and for hunting are completely different. In a blind, the caller must adjust to what actual birds want to hear. In competition, it’s about controlling the duck call to what the human ear wants to hear.
Richard said you have to get the judges to like you and said his chances at the world competition are “as good as anyone else’s.”
“You’ve got five judges back there,” Richard said. “It’s gotta be your day. Not only do they have to like you, but you’ve got to work hard to give them something that they like.
“It’s a long road. It’s continuing to practice and working hard and being the best caller on that day.”