At age 16, Reed Sharpe is a junior at Vance-Granville Early College High School who recently won the junior and adult categories of the North Carolina Goose Calling Championships.
“Before that, I had won a lot of little contests,” Sharpe said. “In 2010, I won third place in the North Carolina Junior Goose calling contest. Then last year, I got third place in the North Carolina Junior Duck Calling Contest.”
As a prelude to this year’s dual win, Sharpe had already won the Junior North Carolina Goose Calling Contest in 2012. He was using an Allen Bliven Calls short-reed competition call. Allen and Julie Bliven make ABC Calls, and they gave him the call that got him started in competition. Allen makes the calls, and Julie tunes them.
“Reed started competition calling four years ago at the Hyde County Waterfowl Festival,” Julie Bliven said. “He could hardly blow a call at all. But, now he’s just unbelievable. He calls in the world championships in the Junior Goose competition at Easton, Maryland, and always finishes in the top eight or nine.”
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Bliven said she did not know what type of call he was blowing when she first met Sharpe. But she told Allen that he was a “nice little fellow,” so they gave him the new call and invited him to be on their calling team. She said he would call every night before competitions, using the ABC Call she had given him the first time they met to replace the lower quality call he was using.
“Goose calling is a different ball of wax from duck calling,” she said. “In goose calling you can throw out all kinds of different notes and call freestyle. But in duck calling, you can’t do that because the rules are so rigid.”
“I have been hunting geese all this time,” Sharpe said. “But competition goose calling and calling for hunting is like being in two different worlds. Competition calling is goose calling for hunting on steroids. You give three or four long, drawn-out hail calls. Then you pretend you have gotten their attention and they have seen the decoys. Then they get closer and closer and you give them a greeting call. Then they leave and you give them a comeback call, which is a fast, long, drawn-out series of pleading calls. Then you pretend they are coming back and give them some greeting calls again. Then you go into soft groundwork calls. You have 90 seconds to do the routine and at 80 seconds, a light comes on and tells you there are 10 seconds left and if you go over that, you’re disqualified.”
Sharpe said his best teachers live in his backyard, Kerr Lake. He calls to the geese, and they call back.
“If I was hunting and calling to real geese, I would call and let the birds tell me what they want,” he said. “If they flared off, I might back off the calling frequency a little bit. You can buy DVDs and go on the Internet to learn how to call. But, I like going out and calling to real geese. They are talking back and forth to each other all the time, and I can call to them and they answer. But, sometimes they see me standing there when they are looking for another goose and fly away.”
This year’s state goose calling championship was held on Jan. 20 at the Mattamuskeet Decoy and Waterfowl Festival at Mattamuskeet High School in Hyde County. Sharpe’s calling skills and competitive nerve had come a long way.
“The first time I called in competition, I was 12,” he said. “It was a duck calling contest and the judges can’t see you from behind a screen. It’s against the rules to speak while you are on the stage so they won’t know who you are. When they asked if I was ready, I said yes when I should only have nodded my head. I was disqualified on the spot.”
But this time, while Sharpe said winning the North Carolina Junior Goose Calling Championship a second year in a row was fun, when he learned he had won the adult stage of the contest, he went wild, or in this case, wilder.
“It was just such a thrill that now I can’t wait for November, when I can call in the world goose calling championships in Easton, Maryland, again,” he said. “This time, I’m better prepared. Now, I know I can win.”
For more information, visit hydewaterfowl.com or www.callingducks.com.