Duck-shooter follows his calling

Leading American duck caller Mario Friendy leads local duck callers in a warm-up session at the Mornington Tavern this week. Photo by Peter McIntosh. If you didn't know better, you would think someone was keeping a flock of ducks in the basement of the Mornington Tavern.

On Monday night there was a cacophony of duck quacks and squawks coming from the Abbots Bar - some sounding pretty tortured.

Fortunately, there were no animals harmed. In reality, it was the tavern's annual duck-calling contest.

This year, the contestants were judged by United States duck-calling star Mario Friendy, of Oregon.

The 45-year-old has been duck calling for 35 years and has won many contests, including the Best of the West duck-calling competition in Utah recently.

Mr Friendy said his father and grandfather had taught him all the family secrets of good tone/timbre and timing, which had made him quite successful in the growing sport.

''Contests and hunting are different. Contests are about your skill in operating a call, and hunting is about your skill to fool the birds.

''In a hunting situation, you need to make the right sound at the right time - timing is everything.

''Competition calls are a lot louder and cleaner, and don't necessarily sound exactly like a duck, because they [the judges] are going off of caller operation and how good you are.

''Just because you can win a competition, it doesn't mean you can fool the birds.''

Such is his passion for duck shooting, he is a sales manager for several American companies that manufacture duck callers, camouflage and duck decoys.

As well as judging about 20 contestants in the duck-calling competition, he was in Dunedin to give advice on how to make the best use of some products that were new to the market.

''When it comes to duck-calling, you have to sound like the real thing or nothing good happens.

''A good day down at the mai mai - if we shoot five, 10 or 20 or 50, it doesn't matter.

''As long as we get out and have a good time with the guys, that's all that matters.''

The duck-shooting season opens on Saturday.

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