- Mike Suchan, Outdoors
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STUTTGART, Ark. Judges for the Senior World might have been tipped off a bit, but it didn't matter.
When hometown favorite Butch Richenback finished competing Saturday in the first-ever competition for those 55 and older, the crowd burst into applause. Judges at the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest are hidden behind a camo screen and compile results based on numbers.
Most could figure from the applause that contestant No. 9 was Richenback, the heart transplant recipient with one and half lungs who is teacher to the duck call champions.
Richenback and Buck Gardner, both World's Champions who developed successful duck call businesses, competed in the 10-man Seniors field. They helped draw a healthy crowd, but it was Craig Guillaume of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who came away with the title.
Guillaume was having a nice weekend, winning the Last Chance Regional to make it into the 70-man field for Saturday afternoon's World's Championship.
"It'd be great to get one more, but they'll be 70 something contestants tonight," he said. "There were 40-something last night. I'm just happy to win."
Richenback and Gardner headlined the field. Both are Champion of Champions, a competition held every five years.
"It's an honor to compete against them," Guillaume said. "I never competed against Butch. I competed against Buck back when I was first starting in about 1994."
Surprisingly, it was Richenback and Gardner who said they felt some butterflies.
"I feel alright," said Richenback, who last competed 33 years ago. "A little nervous. You get nervous blowing up there when you ain't been up there as long as I've been up there."
"If you don't get nervous when you get up here, you're dead," he said. "But this is great fun. I can tell you right now, I'm going to come back and do it again."
A crowd of more than 300 showed up to see the first senior competition, and that impressed Gardner.
"This is a World's size crowd," he said. "For this many people showing up, this is a hoot."
Gardner performed well but didn't make the top four. He and Richenback were tied for third after the first round, and Richenback was doing well before being disqualified for going over the time limit. A light comes on stage to warn callers they only have 10 seconds left.
"I didn't believe I had enough air to blow over," he said. "They didn't beat me. I just kind of beat myself."
Behind stage, Guillaume said there was some good banter among these legends of duck calling.
"There's a lot of old-time talk," he said. "They talk about the old duck calls they used years ago when they were blowing. They were using a double-reed Yentzen. Nowadays everybody blows a single reed."
Specificaly a Rich-N-Tone made by Richenback or a Buck Gardner call.
Senior World results
Winner: Craig Guillaume, Council Bluffs, Iowa
First runner-up: Curt Scheuneman, Minnekota, Minn.
Second runner-up: Charles Petty, Harrisburg, Ark.
Third runner-up: Ed May, Omaha, Neb.
Free takes second Women's World's Championship
After a disasterous 2007, Shelby Free of Stuttgart is back on top.
After winning the Women's World's Championship in 2006, Free's call went dead about month before the World's. Finding a replacement wasn't in the cards. She squawked and didn't place.
A little fine-tuning at Butch Richenback's Rich-N-Tone shop shortly after, and Free won her second title Saturday, including a remarkable score of 295 out of a possible 300 in the final round.
"Awesome," Free said as family and friends gathered for photograph after photograph with the 16-year-old. "It's da bomb. Top of my game today."
Free was admittedly nervous after what happened last year. So was her father, Bill Free, Chairman of the Wings Over the Prairie Festival. He said he freaked when she trailed in the scoring.
Not wanting to hear the others compete, Shelby listened to her iPod backstage.
"I didn't think I had it at all," Free said. "I just got real ducky like Mr. Butch always tells me."
Women's World's Championship results
Winner: Shelby Free, Stuttgart, Ark.
First runner-up: Brittany Sorenson, Memphis
Second runner-up: Hallie Horton, DeWitt, Ark.
Third runner-up: Priscilla Rickman, Henning, Tenn.
California youth breaks through in Junior Worlds
Greg Hubbell Jr. is a bridesmaid no more. Twice the first runner-up, Hubbell, of Belmont, Calif., came through Saturday.
"I did it, finally," the 13-year-old said. "My time."
Despite being a five-time World Elk Calling champion, Hubbell's victory brought great emotion to his father.
"That boy has worked so hard, blowing and blowing and blowing," Greg said, his voice quivering.
Junior Worlds results
Winner: Greg Hubbell, Jr., Belmont, Calif.
First runner-up: Devlin Hodges, Kimberley, Ala.
Second runner-up: Will Nanny, Gleason, Tenn.
Third runner-up: Wyatt Boomhower, Russell, Kan.
Last Chance regional
(Winner qualifies for World's Championships)
Winner: Craig Guillaume, Council Bluffs, Iowa
First runner-up: Matt Richardson, Conway, Ark.
Second runner-up: Jonathan Martin, Trumen, Ark.
Third runner-up: Slayton Gearin, Gleason, Tenn.
Winner: Robbie Iveson, Ottawa, Ill.
First runner-up: Seth Hartmen, Leawood, Kan.
Second runner-up: Shelby Free, Stuttgart, Ark.
Third runner-up: Caleb Rogers,Sallisaw, Okla.
Junior Women's Worlds
Winner: Kelsi Mashburn, Stuttgart, Ark.
First runner-up: Hayley Calhoun, Griffithville, Ark.
Second runner-up: Kayla Wilson, Stuttgart, Ark.
Third runner-up: Sydney Free, Stuttgart, Ark.
15hPat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler