Call it a youth movement – two of California’s best duck and speck callers this year aren’t yet old enough to vote.
Ryan Sherbondy, 17, of Acampo, and Colby Stilwell, 16, of Willows, turned heads at this year’s California State and Regional Duck Calling Championships in Colusa.
Stilwell placed no lower than second in the four individual events in which he competed, including three first places. Stilwell competed in both the intermediate and adult divisions, capturing a first place in Intermediate Speck and a second place in California State Intermediate Duck. Stilwell did some of his best calling in the adult divisions, finishing first in Open Speck and California State Live Duck.
Stilwell’s solid performance this weekend was a continuance of his recent success in the competitive calling world. Last year, he traveled to Easton, Maryland and competed in the Live Duck World Championship and the Goose World Championship. Stilwell ended up winning the Jr. Live Duck World Championship, the Junior Goose World Championship, and became the youngest winner of the Open Men’s Division World Live Duck Calling Championship at the age of 15.
“It feels really good, man. I’ve worked really hard to make it this far,” Stilwell said. “I grew up blowing in contests here in California, and it’s where I learned to love the atmosphere.”
Sherbondy won the California State Duck Calling Championship, earning himself a return trip to Stuttgart, Ark. to compete in the World’s Duck Calling Championship in November. Sherbondy also took second in the Butte Sink Regional Championship, which is also a qualifying event for the World’s Championship in Stuttgart. Joining him there will be Los Banos native Stuart Mattos, who is one of the state’s most decorated competitive callers, and has qualified for and competed in the World’s Championship seven times. Mattos finished two points ahead of Sherbondy in the Butte Sink Regional.
Calling Contest organizer Steve Sherbondy – father of Ryan – said that this year’s competition was a success, despite a drop in the number of competitors.
“It was awesome. The participation was down a tiny bit, but I think that just has a lot to do with people having a lot going on in their lives, and not having time to practice – they just decided not to come out,” Sherbondy said. “But the quality of the callers was great – and it’s always pretty good. This year, we had lots of new up-and-comers who did very well.”■