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Minn. caller wins World's Championship

12/3/2009

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STUTTGART, Ark. — A new call gave Mike Anderson the confidence he needed.

The 29-year-old from Mankato, Minn., outperformed 66 other competitors on a crisp evening to win the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest.

"It's numbing," Anderson said as he stood on the stage at the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce clutching the huge trophy. "It means the world ... Obviously, it's the world's trophy."

Anderson had not made it past the second round in previous World's Championship, but he went down to Butch Richenback's Rich-N-Tone call company in January and received his winning duck call.

"If you don't have the right duck call in your hands, you can be the best in the world and it might not resonate on this stage," he said. "It made me feel in my heart that I could do it."

He qualified for his third World's Championship by winning the Illinois River Regional. He has now won nine calling events and should climb from No. 14 in the Duck Calling Power Rankings.

Saturday, the first cut knocked the field down to 31, and only 11 were left for the third round. People in the crowd of several hundred yelled out the names of their favorites as they waited for the results.

Starting with local favorite J.D. Stanley as 10th runner-up, the finalists were named and moved off the stage onto the steps below. Previous champion Jim Ronquest of Hazen, Ark., was sixth runner-up, and another former champion, Todd Copley of Des Moines, Iowa., was fourth runner-up.

A man in the crowd, noticing all the fidgeting of the remaining contenders said, "Oh man, there's some nervous dudes up there." With an $8,000 check and a list of prizes as well as the title that can propel them far in the business world of duck calling, it stood to reason.

Daniel Duke of Stuttgart was called as third runner-up. When Trevor Shannahan of Millington, Md., left the stage as second runner-up, the crowd let out a big cheer. Anderson and Tyler Merritt of El Paso, Ark., were the last two men standing.

When Merritt was named first runner-up, a mob scene ensued. The announcement of Anderson as 2009 World's Champion was barely audible over the buzz. Anderson was quickly surrounded by well-wishers.

Richenback went up and got his moment with Anderson, whose tears flowed as he hugged his wife. Friends congratulated him, embracing him, yelling their joy for him.

"That's my boy! — he won it!" was one high-fiver's scream.

A phone was shoved into his face. A call from home.

"Thank you, dad" he said with an audible blubber. "Let me talk to Ben (his 9-year-old son). Hey, buddy, I won World's. I wish you were here."

"Dad, I have to let you go. I love you, dad. I love you, mom."

Mobs of friends still pushed to get to him. Cameras flashed to get a shot of him carrying the massive trophy with a huge duck call as its centerpiece.

"I don't know what to say. All I know is it's an awesome feeling. Each and every one of us is a big family. I wish every competitor could be up here because it's an awesome feeling being World Champion," he said.

When asked what he would do with the trophy, Anderson joked that he wanted to strap it to the hood on his 900-mile drive home. "If not, I'm going to set it up in the back seat and strap it in a seatbelt."