A pair of west Kentucky hunters proved that champions flock together after winning back-to-back titles at the World Goose Calling Championships this weekend in Maryland.
Both Kile Jones, 27, and Luke White, 16, were clearly at the top of their game on the trip to Easton, bringing home the senior and junior division titles.
The duo have been hunting and working together since the summer of 2018, when they met at the outdoors store where Jones works.
"Luke was trying out some calls that we sell here, and we got to talking when he said he wanted to try calling competitively and one of his goals was to win the world championship," Jones remembered. "I heard him call, and I knew that if we just worked on a few things we could make it happen."
Since then, the two haven't stopped pushing each other, hunting and rehearsing their goose calling routines together regularly.
"I pushed him, he pushed me right back," said Jones, a native Washingtonian who relocated to Paducah three years ago. "It was motivation for each of us to excel in our calling abilities."
The wins this weekend netted each a sizeable prize package of gear and cash, with Jones' valued at $10,000 and White's at $5,000.
The competition consists of a 90-second stage routine, where participants strive to emulate the sounds of geese and lure waterfowl near the decoys.
Jones broke down what makes a good call in his mind: "The flow, technicality and power that you're executing your notes with are what make you stand up above everybody else. If you have all those three, you're going to knock everybody out of the water."
Practice is the key to the hunters' success in the annual contest.
"You've got to keep on," explained White, a junior at Ballard Memorial High School. "You can't let yourself be average. You have to put yourself above it and just be better."
One of the biggest misconceptions about goose calling is that hunters are trying to imitate waterfowl. They're often, as Jones explained, trying to simulate a social interaction with the birds.
"You can definitely sense emotion from the notes we're doing because of the sequence we're doing them in," he said. "From an outsider's perspective, they think we're calling geese telling them, 'Hey, come here. Come hang out.' That's not what we're doing.
"It's more like, 'Hey, this is my spot. This is my food and you need to back up,'" he added. "Canada geese are often extremely aggressive. You can create that sense of aggressiveness with a lot of those things in your call."
These interactions can be broken down into several types of sounds, but beginning callers should focus on nailing a cluck before rushing into other elements.
"A lot of people run before walk with calling. That's the No. 1 sound a goose makes," said White, who has been hunting waterfowl for eight years now. "If you get that down, you can build off of everything."
The pair will push each other even harder in the next world championship, where they'll be competing against each other as White ages up to the senior division.
"I've had a few conversations with buddies who are telling me I need to watch out for him, and I know," Jones said. "It's been cool to watch him win two years in a row knowing that next year he'll be jumping in to whoop up on me. He's chomping at the bit already."
While White admits he is a little prone to stage fright, he's ready to go up against his friend next year.
"I've just got to work a lot harder," he said. "I get nervous in the big contests, but it's time to just step up and do what I can do and beat him."
"Bring it," Jones said with a laugh.