A 31-year-old Erath outdoorsman stopped at a town along Interstate 10 on Monday afternoon to order a large chocolate Classic Chocolate Frosty from a Wendy’s. Call it the Dessert of Champions, world champions.

Haiden Richard was on the way home after a day on the job in the Baton Rouge area. He had several reasons for the pit stop other than the fact he really likes ice cream.

Richard was talking on his cell phone with well-wishers practically nonstop since Saturday, so his throat was dry, as soon as he finished three pressure-packed rounds of world class duck calling competition on his way to winning World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest title in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

First Louisiana resident

to win title since 1953

Richard became the first Louisiana resident to win the championship since 1953, when it was won by Fred Parnell of Baton Rouge. Phil Green II of Weiner, Arkansas, who was born and raised in New Iberia, won it in 2016, a year or two after he moved to Arkansas.

Richard’s cell phone still was blowing up, as they say, two days later. He fielded all the calls after his lifetime goal was achieved for the first time.

“I actually started as a child blowing a call when I was 12 years old. I started competing when I was 19 years old. I’ve been chasing this since I was 19, when I started trying to qualify. I always wanted to win a world duck calling championship,” he said.

Qualifying for the prestigious contest held every Thanksgiving Week was unkind to him for four years starting in 2010. Frustrated at being unable to even get to Stuttgart, Richard took a hiatus while concentrating on family and business obligations.

He returned to the stage, refreshed. Qualifying still eluded him in numerous contests until 2017, when he won the Louisiana state title. His streak continued and over a three-year period he finished 12th (2017), 10th (2018) and 11th (2019) in Stuttgart.

No one had a chance to call for a world title in 2020 because the contest was canceled by COVID-19.

Richard punched his ticket for the 86th World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest by winning the Ducks Unlimited Regional Duck contest June 26 in Dallas. He qualified for a fourth appearance on the grand stage, the marquee event at the annual Wings Over the Prairie Festival.

Tears during calls with wife,

dad after results announced

“You keep banging on the door and sooner or later you’re going to win it,” he said, proudly.

His wife, Amy Morgan Richard, and sons, Brooks, 17, and Charles, 3, were unable to accompany him to Stuttgart. Amy, who is pregnant, was ill and couldn’t make the trip.

Soon after the duck calling champion finally was announced Saturday, the coveted trophy handed to the outdoorsman from Erath, Richard called his wife. He was squatting with the trophy in front of him on the stage floor while he relayed the news.

“She was crying. I was crying,” he said.

He also spoke to his father, Ritchie Richard of Erath, who got him started as a duck caller. The elder Richard watched the live video feed of those championship rounds Nov. 27.

“Ah, my dad. That’s probably the first time I’ve heard him cry on the phone,” his son said.

“My dad’s always been a big outdoors guy, fishing and hunting. He’s very much attentive to detail. That’s what he’s good at, making everything perfect. That’s what it takes to win these things, right?” Richard asked, rhetorically.

The Erath High School graduate appreciates his father’s emphasize on practice. He practiced religiously in his quest for a duck calling title.

Soon after winning it all, Richard told the Arkansas Democrat & Gazette outdoors editor, Bryan Hendricks, “You get what you put in. There’s no other substitute for practice. Never. Ever. Ever.”

Long wait to renew quest

with his Riceland duck call

It showed on the day of reckoning. Richard’s group didn’t start until 2 p.m. and, as duck caller No. 48 in the field of 56, he waited 1 ½ hours to take his turn. He liked the first of his three 90-second routines with his trusty Riceland Calls duck call made by Bill Daniels in Hayes near Kaplan.

“The first round was good. There was one ‘duck’ I felt I didn’t hit as hard as I should have,” he said.

In Stuttgart, Richard said he never has felt stage fright.

“You walk onto a stage with 200 people staring at you. I’ve been lucky. I never freaked out seeing all those people staring at me. Never at the World’s,” he said.

The World’s Championship routines require a hail call; two, four or three (he always does three) series of ducks calls; feed call; step up call; three topper hail calls; another series of ducks; feed; three quacks, and a finishing duck.

He qualified for the second round with 30 other duck callers.

“You’re not going to win it in Round 1 but you can sure lose it in Round 1,” he said.

In the second round, he said, “I didn’t hit the three-topper as hard as I wanted to or should have, but it wasn’t bad.”

Richard qualified for the third and final round against 13 of the most polished duck callers in the country. The 1 1/2 minutes of reckoning were at hand.

He didn’t know it at the time but on the judges’ cards he was four points behind co-leaders Michael Steinmeyer of Jackson, Missouri, the 2019 World’s Champion, and Jonathan Mortin of Beebe, Arkansas.

The judges and crowd heard one last round of world-class duck calling.

“Everything was good, solid. I did what I wanted to,” Richard said.

Getting the results took an eternity, it seemed to him.

“It’s nerve-wracking because they drag it out,” he said.

Will come back strong

to defend championship

Plaques were awarded starting with the 10th runner-up. When his name wasn’t called by the fifth runner-up, Richard started getting nervous. Still, he thought he’d be second runner-up until officials announced it was Mortin. Steinmeyer finished third runner-up and the trophy went to Richard, who also received a $10,000 check, a War Eagle boat and trailer, a Benelli Super Black Eagle III shotgun, Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate Dog Crate and YETI products.

There has been plenty of time to reflect, to fully appreciate what happened on that chilly Saturday in Stuttgart.

“Every World’s I’ve been in, it’s so hard. Fifty-six people and, honestly, half of those people can win that contest. Thirty or more of those people can win that contest,” he said. “That contest is hard to win. Super hard. Some people go 18 years and never win it.”

Richard was a salesman in the oil industry for nine years before being let go. He has been working as a salesman for Underground Supply Solutions, which sells HDD Tooling. He also started Southern Parish Outdoors and has been guiding for waterfowl hunts since in 2017.

What does the future hold? Duck calling world champions have gone into full-time careers in the outdoors.

“Winning world’s opens up a lot of opportunities,” he said.

For sure, he won’t rest on his laurels. He’ll practice diligently for Thanksgiving Week 2022.

“You’re a world champion the rest of your life. I’ll probably work twice as hard next year. (But) I still don’t want to lose. I hate losing. I’ve always been competitive. This is how I stay competitive,” said the former defensive tackle/linebacker for the Erath Bobcats. He gave it his all for four years, improving his performance on the gridiron each succeeding year.

Efforts like that will call for another Frosty next Thanksgiving Week.

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