CARTERVILLE — Hunter Grounds of Johnston City has evolved from youngster to elder statesman in the waterfowl calling world. But, he’s still cashing checks.
Sunday, Grounds earned what he believes is his sixth Tim Grounds Southern Illinois World Open Goose Calling Championship. He claimed the $1,250 first prize in the contest named for his father.
Trevor Shannahan of Millington, Maryland won the past two years. Shannahan did not compete this year, but Grounds dominated the eight-caller field. He was comfortably ahead after two rounds.
Yet, he wasn’t thrilled with his performance.
“I didn’t feel like I blew to the best of my potential,” he said. “All three rounds, I didn’t ever mess up, but I knew I could do better. I haven’t been practicing like I should, but a win is a win.”
Grounds changed his routine a bit from past years.
“The one particular thing, right before my comedown, I call it a quiver moan,” he said. “That’s kind of a forgotten sound. I knew the judges that were back there. For instance Kelly Powers, he’s done a lot of winning with that particular moan. I knew some of the other judges were going to like it. I did change that up a little bit, but I think that section of my routine help me overcome the whole thing.”
And, despite his domination on the scoreboard, Grounds wasn’t confident of victory when the top five callers were called back to the stage for the awards ceremony. Callers are sequestered during the contest. They cannot hear other callers’ routines.
“It was up in the air,” he said. “Everybody is good. You never do know. It isn’t like when I was winning the Worlds when I was 16, 18, 20-years-old. Now, everybody is capable of winning every day of the week.”
Grounds has been competing in the contest since he was about 10. He turned 30 this year.
Unfortunately, the calling contests don’t attract the number of callers they did just a decade ago.
“The World, I don’t know that they even had 20 people in it last year,” Grounds said. “There was a $7,500 contest last weekend in Ballard County, Kentucky, and there were only 14 callers. There are a lot of good callers that didn’t come. For $7,500, you’d think they’d show up. People aren’t taking the interest. It’s not just here, it’s down everywhere.”
David Downen of Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, placed second, followed by Kyle Jones of Paducah, Michael Ritter of Carterville and Gabe Evrard of Marion.
Winners of the other contests this weekend include:
Troy Dishner Novice Goose Calling – 1. Ross Smith, Herrin; 2. Jake Johnson, Benton; 3. Parker McGuire, Benton.
Tru-Tone Custom Calls Youth Duck Meat Calling (Intermediate) – 1. Levi Woodall, Kevil, Kentucky; 2. Caleb Ham, Dupo; 3. Alex Webb, O’Fallon.
Tru-Tone Custom Calls Youth Duck Meat Calling – 1. Hunter Chapman, Anna; 2. Payton Wottowa, Millstadt; 3. Clayton Collins, Haughton, Louisiana.
Don Gasaway Junior Division Youth Goose Calling – 1. Payton Wottowa, Millstadt; 2. Hunter Chapman, Anna; 3. Audrey Ham, Dupo.
Don Gasaway Intermediate Youth Goose Calling – 1. Ty Draper, Ballard County, Kentucky; 2. Caleb Ham, Dupo; 3. Alex Webb, O’Fallon.
Illinois State Open Meat Duck Calling Championship – 1. Sam Wallace, East Prairie, Missouri; 2. Hunter Grounds, Johnston City; 3. Seth Fields, Huntingden, Tennessee.