By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
Ducks can be forgiven for mistaking Devlin Hodges for one of their own.
That is, if they survive the encounter.
Devlin Hodges, 13, won the Junior World’s Championship duck calling title recently during the Wings Over the Prairie festival at Stuttgart, Ark.
Hodges, an eighth-grader at North Jefferson Middle School, started duck calling three years ago. For him, duck calling started out strictly as something to do only while hunting.
Then he met Butch Richenback of Stuttgart, Ark. Richenback is the founder of Rich-N-Tone (RNT) duck calls and is the coach of Hodges’ competition duck-calling team.
“Without him I wouldn’t be as good as I am,” said Hodges.
Hodges’ mother, Amy, said the family travels to Stuttgart as often as possible for her son to practice with the team.
The teen also practices on his own, at least an hour a day at the family’s Kimberly home.
“He works hard at everything,” said Amy Hodges. “He’s always doing something, whether in the front yard playing sports or downstairs in the basement practicing (his duck calls).”
Outdoors sports comes naturally to Hodges, who comes from a family of hunters.
He began deer hunting at age 5, taking his first deer at 6 years old.
He also goes dove hunting and loves to fish with his grandparents.
Hodges discovered duck hunting three years ago, which is now his favorite type of hunting. He estimates that he has shot 60 or 70 ducks in the past three years.
“It’s a good way to spend time with family and friends,” said Hodges.
He usually goes hunting with his father Zane Hodges; his brother Duncan Hodges; his grandfather Gary Hodges; his uncle “Little Gary” Hodges, and friends.
It does not bother the young man to get up at 3 a.m. to head to the water. He often hunts at Swan Creek in Decatur. After he puts out the decoys, he likes to “talk and goof off” until the ducks come.
But when they start to fly in, it’s time to get serious.
“The best part is the dog going and retrieving them,” he said. “It’s fun to watch him swim out there.”
The dog, a chocolate lab named Dakota, jumps out of the boat as soon as shots are fired, Hodges said, even if the hunters hit no birds.
Hodges has his choice of duck calls to use when hunting and when competing.
He has six duck calls, but has favorites for both hunting and for competing.
This is the third year Hodges has competed at the Arkansas contest. He was first runner-up last year.
To advance in the competition the callers have to “blow a clean routine for about 90 seconds,” Hodges said. There are three rounds.
“If you squeak or squawk, you get cut,” he said.
There were 23 people in the competition from at least five states. Hodges is the first person from Alabama to win the competition.
“That’s what’s best about it,” he said.
Besides hunting, Hodges plays quarterback on North Jefferson Middle School’s football team. He also plays point guard on the basketball team and plays baseball.
By Melanie Patterson