CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Army Staff Sgt. Eric Anton, of Bismarck, N.D., a member of the North Dakota Army National Guard, called all duck hunters, and non-duck hunters, on stage to show off their duck calling skills at Camp Bondsteel May 30.
Anton deployed to Kosovo with Bismarck's 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company on a NATO peacekeeping mission in August 2009. He now works with Multinational Battle Group East's (MNBG E) Liaison Monitoring Team as a supply sergeant and mail room clerk.
Anton, an avid hunter, has been a member of Delta Waterfowl for about five years. Last year, while attending the Delta Waterfowl banquet in Bismarck, he was asked if he would be interested in hosting a duck-calling contest while deployed.
Delta Waterfowl is an organization that strives for conservation of wetlands, promotes waterfowl production, and works to secure the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting across North America.
Anton spoke with the members of Delta Waterfowl, Troy Reno, chief operating officer, and Kevin Becker, director of fundraising, and came up with a plan. They also gave suggestions on how these contests had been run previously in other theaters.
“They had supported an event like this in Iraq,” Anton said. “They told me how much the soldiers there had enjoyed it. I figured this would be something fun for our soldiers, and there was an interest in this as well since we all missed last fall's hunting season and so many of us love to hunt.”
Anton also used the opportunity to show other soldiers from all over the world a little piece of North Dakota?s hunting heritage.
Anton received duck calls and prizes from Delta Waterfowl for the soldiers who participated in the contest. They also sent prizes for a raffle, for those who came to support the contest.
Duck calls were handed out to anybody interested in taking part in the Memorial Day weekend competition.
Approximately forty people practiced their duck calls while waiting for the contest to start. Many had never heard a duck call before, let alone tried calling.
“Duck calling is pretty simple with a little practice,” Anton said. “However, I am not all that good and usually rely upon friends while hunting. There are two types of calls, single and double reed. Single reed calls are a little harder to use, but sound more duck like. There is also a choice between wood and acrylic calls. Wood calls sound pretty realistic if used right, but you can usually get a little more volume out of an acrylic call.”
“Everyone has their own style, just like each duck has its own unique sound. There are four basic calls or sounds that hunters and competitors use the basic quack, the hail or highball, the feeding, and the come back,” Anton also said.
Anton, along with two other duck hunters, judged the contest. Army Col. David Thiele, of Bismarck, N.D., the command judge advocate for MNBG E, and Army Spc. Leigh Clarke, of Mandan, N.D., a Liaison and Monitoring Team (LMT) member, helped decide the best duck callers.
Contest participants received fifteen seconds to give it their all. Many had authentic duck calls, while others just had fun. One soldier spent his allotted time squeezing talking “Aflac” ducks into the microphone, entertaining the audience greatly.
Army Spc. Nicolas Salvaggio, of Devils Lake, N.D., a member of the LMT, took first place in the contest for his duck calling skills and won a 2008-2009 Federal Duck Stamp print by Joe Hautman.
Second place went to another LMT member, Army Sgt. Dale Clemens of of Noonan, N.D. His calling got him a set of green-winged teal duck decoys.
Army Spc. Dustin Devillers, of Fargo N.D., of MNBG E?s Bravo Company, received third place for his creativity and duck-calling abilities. His duck-hunting act on stage helped win him a five piece decorative buck knife set.
The prizes from the duck calling contest will be available for the soldiers when they return home from their deployment, or will be mailed to them, so the soldiers wouldn?t have to worry about shipping the items home.
Other items, such as gear bags and backpacks, hunting accessories and hats were given away to all duck-calling supporters by luck of the draw raffle tickets.
“I was very pleased with how many people showed interest in this event,” Anton said, “and I was very happy with the amount of enthusiasm from everyone, including non duck-hunters. My main objective was to have fun while doing something different. Many soldiers here on Camp Bondsteel have never had the opportunity to duck hunt. I hope events like this will put more hunters into the wetlands.”
Multinational Battle Group East is a U.S- led task force commanded by Army Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann. This Battle Group is comprised of nearly 1,200 soldiers, including Greece, Poland, Ukraine, and Turkey. The charter mission of MNBG E is maintaining a safe and secure environment and providing freedom of movement for the people in Kosovo.