By Army Staff Sgt. Jill Fischer
North Dakota National Guard
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo, (6/4/10) - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Anton, an avid duck hunter and member of the North Dakota Army National Guard, asked his comrades to show off their duck-calling skills during the Memorial Day weekend here.
Anton, a resident of Bismarck, N.D., deployed on a NATO peacekeeping mission to Kosovo with his hometown's 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company in August 2009. He now works with Multinational Battle Group East's Liaison Monitoring Team as a supply sergeant and mailroom clerk.
Last year in Bismarck, Anton was asked by a local nature-conservation group if he would be interested in hosting a duck-calling contest while deployed.
"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."
The group provided duck calls and prizes for the soldiers who participated in the contest. Duck calls were handed out to anybody interested in taking part in the May 30 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," he continued. "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."
Anton, along with two other duck hunters, judged the contest. Participants had 15 seconds to give it their all. Many had authentic duck calls, while others just had fun.
Spc. Nicolas Salvaggio, Devils Lake, N.D., took first place and won a 2008-2009 Federal Duck Stamp print by Joe Hautman.
Second place went to Sgt. Dale Clemens of Noonan, N.D. His calling got him a set of green-winged teal duck decoys.
Spc. Dustin Devillers, Fargo N.D., received third place for his creativity and duck-calling abilities. He won a five-piece decorative knife set.
The soldiers will receive their prizes when they depart Kosovo, or they'll be mailed to them, so they don't have to worry about shipping the items home.
"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.
Multinational Battle Group East is a U.S-led task force comprised of nearly 1,200 soldiers, including servicemembers from Greece, Poland, Ukraine, and Turkey. The group's mission is to maintain a safe and secure environment and providing freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.