JONESBORO, Ark. There were nearly 40 teams that entered the Duck Classic, an event that raises money for the NEA Clinic Charitable Foundation.
One of the few duck hunting competitions held in the U.S., the Duck Classic broke down like this:
• Duck hunters were allowed no more than four mallards of which only one mallard may be a hen.
• The daily bag limit may also contain one pintail, three mottled ducks, three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck, one canvasbackbut no more that a total of six ducks.
• Teams cannot exceed four hunters.
• 5 points awarded for Mallard Drakes/Pintail Drakes.
• 2 points awarded for any other duck including but not limited to Black, Gadwall, Merganser, Ringneck, Shoveler, Teal, Widgeon, Wood, et cetera.
• 1 point for Mallard Hens/Pintail Hens.
• All ducks must be retrieved, counted, and scored.
• Individual hunters cannot surpass the daily allowable limit set forth by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.
• Team with the most points will be awarded as the winner.
• In the event of a tie, the team with the earliest recorded score will be the winner.
• Hosts will not be permitted to hunt.
But perhaps the most important part of the event is the night before the hunt, when each team was be randomly selected and as it's stated in the rules, "matched with some of the area's top hunting spots."
And, like in all areas of the country, some "top" hunting spots are a little higher than others. The Aston Blasters, consisting of father Tim Aston, his sons Greg and Brian, and cousin Andy Murphy, knew they had a good chance of winning when Bryan Pope was selected as their host.
Pope has land "near Egypt, Ark.," as Tim Aston described it. Aston said they had to be picky about what they shot early on, but eventually the Mallard drakes came pouring in. They had all their ducks, including 16 Mallards, three Pintails and five bonus ducks, by 8:30 a.m., which gave them 105 out of a possible 108 points.
The second place team, consisting of Nate Burnett, Glen Burnett, Chad Waggoner, Jeff Barker and Scott Brady, scored 99 points and hunted along the Cache River.
Each member of the Aston Blasters won a trophy and a brand new Benelli shotgun. When asked how it felt to win the event, Tim Aston got straight to the point.
"It sure beats losing," he said. "Days like today are what keep you coming back."