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Gene Gallmeister of Du Quoin poses with his collection of calls and statues.

Provided by Jason Furlow

DU QUOIN — Jason Furlow envisioned something of an intimate gathering for duck call and decoy collectors and enthusiasts last year.

Before he knew it, Furlow was organizing a full-blown outdoors show at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. This year, the Southern Illinois Sportsman Show will be held at the fairgrounds’ Expo Building July 22-23.

Show hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults.

“Last year, I knew about 16 guys around the area that had collections that no one would ever see unless I had a show,” Furlow said. “I was just going to invite guys that go to the shows to come see these collections. You know how social media is, the next thing I knew I had guys telling me, ‘Hey I make duck lanyards, can I come to your show?’

“It went really good the first year. There was a lot better attendance than I thought we’d have. We had more vendors than I thought we’d have. This year I have even more vendors. The attendance, I think, is going to triple this year just because of social media response. I think the sky is the limit on this year actually. It’s just going to take one good year to really get the ball rolling.

This year’s show will feature more than 50 vendors. The show is waterfowl-centric, but will feature deer hunting and fishing vendors as well.

That first show drew the attention of major figures in the waterfowl world.

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Andy Murray (from left), Gene Gallmeister, Larry Conley, Van McGill and Jason Furlow pose with an assortment of calls.

“John Stephens of Rich-N-Tone Calls, he’s coming back again,” Furlow said. “He’s like me. He wants to get kids involved. That’s what this show is really about this year, getting kids involved. John is going to do a calling seminar for the kids at noon on Saturday. That’s huge, having a champion of champions, to do that. He’s donated two boxes of stuff that he’s going to give to the first 50 kids that show up.”

This year’s show has several new features, including duck call and decoy experts who will appraise collectible items.

“If people have old duck calls and they bring them to the show this year,” Furlow said. “I have one of the top collectors (Ryan Graves) in the nation. He’s going to give free appraisals. He’s going to tell you who made it. He’s going to tell you what it’s worth and what you can sell it for. The other good thing, there will be a ton of collectors here again this year. If you want to sell it, they have the money and you can do it right there.

“It’s real neat at some of the other shows, they have this duck call they’ve had for 20 years their grandpa gave them, and they’ve just had it in a shoebox and they say, ‘It’s worth $20,000.’ It just blows their mind.”

A duck-call making contest is also on the agenda.

“Guys from all over the country are sending their calls in,” Furlow said. “I’ll have five categories — carved, chequered, laminate, working wood and working non-wood. I have two sets of judges for each.

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The Southern Illinois Sportsman Show took place in 2016 at the Du Quoin State Fair Grounds. It will return July 22 and July 23.

“Those calls will all be on display. There are pretty much only two fancy call contests in the country. That’s really neat. I’m getting calls shipped in every day from all over the country. A lot of those guys are going to have their calls for sale. I’m really shocked at how well the first year of the contest is going.”

Two local call makers, Gene Gallmeister and Kevin Rathjen, will have entries in the contest.

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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