If you see flocks of ducks and geese flying around Deep Branch Road near Milton, you can blame Finley (Fin) Jones IV. The energetic 6-year-old picks up his calls to practice every day as soon as he gets home from school.
At times, the Jones’ household sounds more like a duck blind.
Fin has become quite an accomplished caller, way ahead of his years. Most serious callers don’t compete – or win contests – until they are at least 10 to 12 years old; Fin won his first contest at the ripe old age of 4. He now has 11 trophies and counting.
His mother, Amy Jones, says her son has been walking around with calls since he was 2 years old; they were his pacifiers.
He picked up his love of anything involved with hunting from his father, Finley Jones III. He has camouflage bed coverings and recently had his room painted brown. He also has deep roots in Sussex County: his grandfather, Finley Jones Jr., is a former longtime Sussex County councilman.
“He’s had a call in his mouth since he was about 18 mouths old, and he would try to blow,” his mother said. “It wasn’t until he was about 3 1/2 that he could make sounds.”
She said he’s at a disadvantage because older boys have more developed lungs.
Fin’s ultimate goal is to “get the big check.” The check he is referring to is $10,000 presented to the world champion goose caller each year at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. Fin competed this year as a junior, but the much older competition is world class and he didn’t place.
He said he’d have to practice at least two hours a day for several more years to reach that level.
While most young boys collect baseball cards, Fin collects duck and goose calls. He even has two handmade, wooden calls made by Tommy Lee of Seaford that he won as prizes. The Milton Elementary School kindergartner also likes to play baseball, soccer and football.
Since the group of young callers is a small one, Fin knows most of those who compete in the area. “There are none his age; they are 15 or older. During contests the older guys take care of him,” his mom said.
“But I still want to beat them; I try my best,” Fin adds.
Then his mom is quick to remind him: “You are a winner no matter what.”
Fin said it was an unbelievable experience when he was able to call his first real geese onto a pond while hunting. “It was cool. I couldn’t believe that I did it,” he said.
To the untrained ear, most calls sound about the same, but that’s not the case, says Fin’s dad. Callers are judged on a routine of calling ducks and geese, landing them, bringing them back and landing them again.
According to the website callingducks.com, professional callers learn to perfect the basic quack, as well as greetings, feeding, hailing, comeback, lonesome and pleading calls. Each had a different sound.
A really big year for a little boy
This year has been a big year for the little caller. In January, he won the Little Quackers Contest in Ocean City, Md., and then won top honors – and his first cash award – the following month at the 66th annual National World championship Muskrat Skinning Contest in Golden Hill, Md. In April, he again won first place in duck and geese calling at Ducks Unlimited Greenwing Day at Owen’s Station near Greenwood.
In August, he won the Delta Waterfowl Youth Day Contest in Laurel for the second year in a row and competed in the Keystone Regionals in Pennsylvania. In October, he placed fifth in the Captain Bones Delaware Bay open novice goose contest in Odessa. He also won first place in the peewee division, third in junior goose and fourth in junior duck at a contest at God’s Country Outfitters in Albemarle, N.C.
But by far, the highlight of Fin’s year was a visit to Port Clinton, Ohio, a place near and dear to many hunters’ hearts – the home of Zink Calls. Fin visited the company, made two of his own calls and shadowed staff member Jimmy Wren, head of call production and videography, while he worked.
Fin had met Wren at two contests, and he was impressed with his determination and outgoing personality. “He knew we were planning for a contest in Canada, so Jimmy told us to come a couple days early and stay with him, and he would take Fin to the shop to work with him,” Amy said.
From there, the family crossed the border to compete in the Jack Miner Calling Contest in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. Miner’s grandson, Kurt Miner, gave Fin an original 100-year-old Canada goose leg band with Miner’s famous Bible verse embossed on the band.
“To be presented with one of the old bands is a rare honor,” his mother said. It’s become one of Fin’s most prized possessions.
“It was a big deal, and his picture was in several Canadian newspapers,” his father said.
Jack Miner is considered the father of conservation and a pioneer of bird banding to track migration. He founded the migratory waterfowl sanctuary system establishing the first sanctuary in 1904, which is still in operation. Miner-banded geese are found throughout the eastern and midwestern United States, including one found in Chestertown, Md., in December 2010.
In the summer of 2010, Fin placed second in two categories in a southern Maryland contest and won top honors in the Delta Waterfowl Youth Day contest in Hardscrabble.
In October 2010, he won first place as a junior caller in a contest at Gander Mountain in Salisbury, Md., and finished fourth at the Eastern Shore Open in Kennedyville, Md., where he met Jimmy Wren and Fred Zink of Zink Calls.
In November he was the youngest competitor at the Mason Dixon Regional Calling Contest as part of the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md.
Fin has started to learn to call turkeys, which is quite different from calling waterfowl. Although there is a device used to call the birds, Finn is learning to use his own voice and throat.
Four-year-old Emma Pearl Jones is following in her brother’s footsteps and has competed in some small contests. It means even more noise in the Jones’ household – not to mention more confused ducks and geese flying above the neighborhood.