Twin Falls native takes duck-calling skills to world competition

Posted: Thursday, October 03, 2002

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) -- You could just call Mike Plein an expert in fowl language.

Plein, a Twin Falls native, recently won the title of state champion duck and goose caller during a competition held in Idaho Falls last month. It was his third state championship in duck calling and his first in the goose competition. He'll now be competing in the World's Championship Duck Calling contest, in Stuttgart, Ark., this November.

This will be his first chance to represent the state in an international competition. There are 64 seats available for the Arkansas tournament, and Idaho has an invitation for the first time.

An avid hunter, Plein started learning the art of waterfowl calling when he was 10. He has competed regularly for three years and made duck calling as rewarding, if not more, than the annual hunt.

''It keeps you sharp for the complete year,'' said Plein. ''A musician doesn't start the day before he starts a record deal. It turns into a sport and it's fun.''

Plein says the little details that go into shaping his duck-calling craft come from time and observation spent on the hunt. Experience on the competitive circuit doesn't hurt.

Plein has competed in California, Illinois and won a few contests in Utah this year.

And just what goes into a duck-calling competition?

''There's qualified judges who have competed in world contests, won world title, or they're call makers themselves and know what they're looking for.''

During a competition, Plein says judges are sectioned off behind dividers so they can't tell who the contestant is. Only a number is known. They then judge him by specific calls in a routine. There are three rounds, with a maximum of 80, 90 and 100 points in each respective round. The competition is eliminated through each round. ''Make any mistake,'' Plein explained, ''and basically they'll hammer you for it.''

Plein says there are distinct differences in both birds' call.

''In duck calling you're almost working the same series, and same scenario. You're painting the scenario to the judges. Duck calling is faster and has more speed. But goose calling is more lifelike. It's music to people's ears.''

Plein said this is the first time he's aware of the state having a single duck and goose calling champion in a national or international competition.

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