Jessy and Shay Lawrence speak duck. Fluently. The brothers from Twin Falls are far more than avid quackers. They are first-class champion callers who compete with the top callers in the world.
“It’s like any instrument – the more time you’re on it, the better you’re going to be,” says Jessy, 25.
“There are two sides to it: There’s duck hunting calling, then there’s competition calling,” says Shay, 20. “The difference is like black and white.”
Unlike hunters behind a duck blind, competition callers are required to show their mastery of the call with a wide range of high and low notes with fast and slow rhythms.
“These are notes you’re not going to blow in the blind because they are so loud, sharp and crisp,” Jessy says. “As far as shooting birds goes, it’s not always about the calling. It’s about knowing when to call, how to call, what to say into the call. It’s all about reading the bird.”
Although they’ve been duck hunters for years, Jessy and Shay’s competition careers began about three years ago when they took a duck calling class offered at CSI, taught by three-time Idaho State Duck Calling champion Mike Plein. After the five-week class, Plein saw natural talent in the Lawrence boys, so he took them under his wing and taught them competition calling. For six months, Plein prepared them for their first meet.
They practiced 2-3 hours a day and carried their calls everywhere they went.
The hard work paid off. Shay won the Utah and Washington Junior State Duck Championships. Jessy
won the Utah Novice State Duck Championship. They swept the Idaho State Championships in 2004, including the Masters of the Marsh Team Contest. Both Jessy and Shay have competed at the World Championships of Duck Calling in Arkansas and have been ranked in the top 50 in the world.
“When you get to that level, you’re competing against the top callers in the world,” Jessy says. “These are people who you see their faces in magazines. It’s extremely intimidating, but then you get out and blow and you’re just as good as them.”
Jessy and Shay are the most accomplished brother tandem in duck calling.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re as good as we are,” Jessy says. “We push each other and we’re constantly trying to one-up on each other. We work together and critique each other.”
The brothers have come full circle and are now teaching the duck calling class at CSI where they got their start. They are passing on the lessons they learned from their mentor, Mike Plein.
“Jessy and I realized how thankful we were that Mike had shared his gift with us and we wanted to do the same,” Shay says. “Mike showed me that just because you’re the best, it doesn’t mean that you should keep it to yourself. You should share your skills and enlighten as many as you can.”
The brothers have also mentored champion callers, including 12-year-old Jed Oiler, who has already
won three Junior State Championships.
“We both wanted to share our gift of calling and the sheer awesome power of waterfowl with not only the community, but the hardcore waterfowlers who love the sport of duck hunting but never had the chance to have someone teach them how to speak duck,” Shay says.
“To me, learning to call is not about the trophies and the competition calling. What makes it for me is being out in the blind, watching the dog work, controlling the birds, watching the birds work,” Jessy says. “Being able to compete with the elite in the world is awesome, but the memories you create out on the water is what it’s all about for us.”
“Being able to compete with the elite in the world is awesome, but the memories you create out on the water is what it’s all about.”
Photos and Story by Ryan Howe