Team ABC cleans up at Southern Classic
By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on March 6, 2009 1:46 PM
The Southern Classic Duck, Goose and Swan Calling Championship is an annual event sponsored by the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild. This year's calling contest was held in early February in conjunction with the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and the North Carolina Decoy Carving Championship.
Sneads Ferry call-makers Allen and Julie Bliven, have supported a team effort -- Team ABC -- for several years. This year's Classic paid off big-time for the family business. Allen Bliven Calls garnered more wins than any other call manufacturer.
"I've been making calls since 2001 and have made 5,000 calls," said Allen Bliven. "I sell them at events like the Dixie Deer Classic and Ducks Unlimited banquets. I also sell some in retail stores across eastern North Carolina. I make them and Julie tunes them."
"I'm the quality control officer," said Julie Bliven. "Allen has so much air, he blows a call much harder than most people. So I tune them to be easy to blow. When we go the Classic, I make sure everyone gets there on time, pay the entry fees and videotape the callers so it will help them improve."
Interesting footnotes for this year's event include the story of Josh Hock of Team ABC, who was sick but still won second place in the North Carolina Goose contest. He won the event in 2005, '06 and '07 so he was required to sit out the 2008 contest. Aaron Matthews took fourth in the World Swan contest, using his voice. Hock placed ninth in the World Swan contest using a prototype Bliven call.
Winners of the North Carolina Duck and Goose calling contests are invited to the world events. The World Duck Calling Contest is held in Arkansas and the World Goose Calling Contest is held in Maryland. The World Swan Calling Contest is held at the Classic because North Carolina is the epicenter of swan hunting.
"I was the only call maker from North Carolina that had a call in the swan contest," said Allen. "Half of the contestants used their mouths. Danny Baker of St. Leonard (Maryland) came in first using an elk call."
The duck-calling event has four parts to the routine and is similar to the other calling contests. There are five judges and three rounds with the highest total for all rounds determining winners. The judges are hidden and the contestant cannot speak.
The contestant moves to the stage then does a warm-up, nodding his head when ready to begin. A routine lasts 90 seconds with the caller attempting to create an image in the judges' minds of the caller working ducks approaching decoys, getting ready to land, something flaring them away and the hunter hailing them to return to the decoys.
"I think reasons for Team ABC's success are that my calls sound loud and ducky, and the team practices a lot," said Allen. "I meet potential team members at events and people call wanting to be on my team. I make calls specifically tailored to each junior caller by adjusting the reeds and boring exhaust holes differently."
The Blivens make mallard calls in both acrylic and wood -- one model for timber and one for open water. They make three goose calls. Julie said the easiest to blow is a "shorty long" because it has a short reed with a long exhaust tube. There is also a medium volume goose call and a loud one. The goose calls are made of acrylic, wood or both.
"Julie designed the pintail/teal/wigeon/drake mallard whistle," said Allen. "It doesn't get past her until it sounds right. It's made of wood. Our woods are cocobola, bocote and Osage. I also make wood duck calls and diver duck calls of wood."
The Blivens will have an operational Website in April -- www.allenblivencalls.com. Until then, their telephone number is (910) 327-0309. For information about the Southern Classic, visit www.eastcarolinawildfowlguild.com.
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