"I tell [people] that the ducks coming our way each fall get shot at and called to in every state between here and Canada and are real educated by the time we see them, so you have to be good to call them in," Crawford said.

"It all begins with duck hunting," Crawford assured.

"I blew on that call for five minutes and said that's it, it's dead on," Crawford interjected. "I told Wayne [Betts] that the duck calling god must have walked through that one withhim because it was dead a on!"

Noting that Arkansas callers have won the world championship more often than not during the competition's 70 year history, he said he knows why the state's callers were so good.

The last activity comes first and foremost at a small backyard workshop in Rogers where a few men regularly gather on Wednesday nights during the long offseason. On those nights, the little shop can be said to be the duck calling capital of Northwest Arkansas.

Many competition callers, he noted, prefer the versatility of the single reed call and are willing to put in the time it takes to become comfortable with it.

"I make a one piece insert with either a double reed or single reed," Betts said. "The double reed makes it easier to make a realistic sound of the hen mallard, while the single reed is more versatile, but takes more skill."

"Nowadays, I make five different calls an open water call, a timber call, a hybrid timber call, a competition call and a Canada goose call," Betts said, indicating the various models on display in his shop.

While the external shape of the calls is designed to fit comfortably in a caller's hand and against his mouth, it's the interior reed design that is key to producing the seductive sounds of the mallard hen so crucial to success in the field or on the stage of a callingcontest.

At the time of the 2000 contest, Crawford already was a legend in duck calling as a three time winner of the world championship held annually in Stuttgart.

Competing the night before, he won the Chick Majors contest hosted by a former world champion and calling legend. Then, on his birthday, he started the day by winning the Arkansas State Championship and followed up that night by winning the world championship.

Demonstrating his calling expertise, he cupped his hand to his mouth and began going through a repertoire of calls, such as the Hail Call and theComeback Call.

"Now that's really a lost art," he said, adding that a caller named Herman Callioutte of Greenville, Miss., had once won the world championship long ago by mouth calling.

One of Betts' calls was recently used to win the Oklahoma State Duck calling Championship, but his breakthrough came when Crawford asked him to make a call for the 2000 Champion of Champions calling contest limited to former world champions and held every five years in Stuttgart.

Within the warm confines of his shop on a cold, snowy nightlast week, Betts took time for a show and tell regarding the history of his calls and how they are made. "I don't make any molded calls; I hand turn each one on a lathe according to designs that took me years to refine," the middle aged craftsman said. "Most call makers today have never turned a call themselves. With less than a half dozen hand makers left in the country, it's kind of getting to be a lost art."

Betts made and tuned the call and shipped it to Crawford.

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His calls typically start out as blocks of acrylic or cocobola wood that are placed on a lathe and sculpted with sharp tools to create the barrels and inserts. Showing how it was done, he made it look easy.

The level of expertise and experience is genuinely world class when Trey Crawford and Wayne Betts of Rogers get together with young duckcalling proteges like Jeff Morrison of Springdale and Brock Bertrand of Fayetteville, as well as other young callers who show up from time to time.

On his 17th birthday in 1976, Crawford was in Stuttgart going up against the best callers in the world.

Growing up near Newport in northeast Arkansas, Crawford got an unusually early start in duck hunting and call ing competition in a family immersed in everything ducks.

After winning the title in 1976, 1986 and 1993 and the Champion of Champions in 2000, the burly, middle aged caller became the only person to ever achieve the pinnacle of calling in four straight decades.

"Robertson came up to us after we won and said, 'You boys sound like you might have killed a few ducks in your time,'" Crawford recalled.

The calling sounded great even before Crawford pulled his hand away from his mouth and grinned to show me he had no call in his hand and had been mouth calling alone.

Betts and Crawford are sensitive to the contention that competition calling bears little relation to calling ducks during actual hunts.

"It was a heckuva birthday," Crawford said.

Crawford went on to win the 2000 Champions of Champions competition, which marked the beginning of a close friendship with Betts that has only grown closer since Crawford recently moved to Rogers and became manager of the Whole Hog Cafe in Bentonville.

For starters, the shop is home to Betts Championship Duck Calls, where Betts has been making calls since 1994. The word "championship" associated with the name of the calls is not hype one Cheap Women Canada Goose Victoria Parka Green Ireland of Betts' calls was once used to win the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, and others are used regularly by top competitors in calling contests around the country.

He added that one of the most memorable compliments he's received during his callingcareer came after he and Betts had won the World Team Meat Calling Contest held in Pocahontas and judged by Phil Robertson, a famed caller known as the "Duck Commander."

"I started duck hunting when I was 5 years old and entered my first [calling] contest in 1969 when I was 10 years old; that was the year I won the Jackson County Junior Duck Calling Championship," Crawford said. "On the same day, my father won the Northeast Arkansas Regional Open and my brother won the Jackson County Senior Division."

´╗┐BEYOND THE CALL