Heeding the Call

Niccum is gone

Jody Niccum, the 2007 world champion, is officially out of the 2008 competition. He only scored 223 in the first round, which barely made the cut, and he couldn't make up the difference in round two (he blew a 254).

I wanted to use the headline "Niccum-pooped," as the lead but got shot down. Then I thought it would be a good blog headline and got shot down. So, I've snuck it in the blog, refusing to let a moment of such brilliance be held down by jealous editors.

It's being cut again and Niccum's kin, Cory Niccum, is still in the running, but not in a good position to win.

Brad Allen and Ryan Nolan are tied for the lead after two rounds with 485 points. There are 18 callers within five points of the lead. With a possibility of 300 points in the final round, this thing is still completely up for grabs.

— Kyle Carter

Going Blind

alt="Sam Eifling - ESPNOutdoors.com"
In the year since the last World Championship Duck Gumbo Cookoff, it was easy to forget how drastic the contrast is between the surrounding landscape and the party under the big white tent.

Outside: florescent-lit rice silos, hulking industrial complexes, little farm equipment dealers, expanses of dark and silent prairie.

Inside: thousands of revelers, tossing beads at each other, slapping stickers on each others' back pockets, guzzling beers, playing music, dancing, eating, laughing, raising hell.
"It's an incredible phenomenon," said Curtis Ahrens, in his fifth year as the Gumbo Chairman. Last year, in colder weather, about 2,000 people filed into the 22,000-square-foot tent. By 4 p.m., Ahrens said, more than 2,500 had packed it today.

Otherwise, it was a near copy of 2007. Fifty-five teams with 400 cooks (many of whom, it's safe to say, took on no more serious culinary venture than to pickle themselves) competed for the gumbo title. Their booths — some of which looked like Swiss Family Robinson-inspired discothèques — were also up for awards. In six hours, the crowd was expected to drain about 10,000 16-oz bottles of beer.

The waiting list for this lunacy stands at 27 teams. Organizers don't have any plans for expansion, so they could be waiting for years.

At one booth, Stuttgart's own Flamingo Gumbo, the "cooks" were beer-bonging Bud Light out of a plastic flamingo named Flo. They'd pour beer in through her belly, turn her upside down, and drink out of a hole in her beak. "A few seconds with Flo," said team member Marla Branson, "will change your life."

Apparently the team experimented with several different lawn ornament beer-bong apparatuses before settling on Flo. Her only flaw: beer sometimes leaks out her eyes, so they wrapped tape all around her face. Smart money says Flo wasn't the only one in the tent getting blind drunk.

— Sam Eifling

Drunk, I mean, Duck Gumbo

alt="Kyle Carter - ESPNOutdoors.com"

There is really no way to describe the Duck Gumbo, but here goes …

It's like Mardi Gras stopped in the middle of a field in Stuttgart, Ark., and they stuck a tent on top of it. Then they brought in piles and piles of beer, with a little bit of gumbo and a band.

Tell everybody to slap stickers on everyone else's butt and let chaos ensue.

Here are a few of the highlights:

• Wooden stocks where you put your hands and feet in and let people slap stickers on your butt
• A trash pile of beer cans the size of a car
• A stage and a band where there was no real parameter on where the bands stage started and the dance floor stopped
• A 15-foot inflatable rat
• Booth names: SS Rude Behavior, Mojo Gumbo, Jumbo Gumbo

Two laps around the grounded "floats" in the middle of the tent was enough to feel like you partied all night.

You want a better idea of what it's like, check out Sam Eifling's Camo and Beads story from last year.

— Kyle Carter

You're going to what?

alt="Kyle Carter - ESPNOutdoors.com"

For two weeks I've been telling people I'm going to cover the duck calling contest and the inevitable question/bad joke from those that don't know: "How do they decide the winner? Do they see who can call the most ducks in?"

I usually respond with a chuckle and a nod as to not make people feel bad, and then say, "No, it's kind of like playing a musical instrument."

But the reality is, when it comes to judging a duck call, I know about as much as my Jerry Seinfeld comrades.

I know a little more since 1997 world champion Rick Dunn gave us an audio breakdown, but I'm still pretty ignorant.

By hour four last year, I could recognize a bad squawk. But it just started this year, so for now, I'm going to walk out there and act like I know what the hell is going on.

— Kyle Carter