Struggling to squeeze into the crudely made wooden camouflage blind, sophomore Seth Hartman couldn’t see 20 yards ahead of himself through the thick morning fog. The whaling of noise from the uncountable dark silhouettes above can’t help but fuel his raging excitement. His hands, already trembling, start to shake as he tries to place his call between his lips. After blowing a series of calls, he had done it again. The ducks had taken the call and started to land.
For most hunters this is what they dream about in a hunt; but Hartman is used to this feeling. Because for the past three years Hartman has been taught by the one of the best in the world and has taken his duck calling to a national stage.
Duck hunting since second grade, Hartman fell in love with the sport.In seventh grade, with a desire to improve his hunting, Hartman’s father pushed him to begin calling. Calling is where a person uses various calls to imitate the noises of a duck. In a hope that the duck will think other ducks are nearby and land, and the ducks flock to a good caller.
Seeing the passion Hartman had for calling, his father noticed his son’s talents; and through connections, he found the perfect mentor. Hartman was introduced to Dusty Banner, a local duck calling legend.
“I started working with Seth when he was 11 or 12, and on a scale of 1-10 he was probably a two or three,” Banner said. “But now, after working with him for a few years, I would say he’s an eight and improving every day.”
After weeks of taking rough criticism, and repeating lines of notes, Hartman entered his first ever competition at the 2006 Junior World Duck Calling Contest. Hartman placed third in this competition, his first ever.
Each calling contest is held anywhere from a packed convention center to a tent-covered lawn out in the middle of nowhere, and is full of callers hopeful to impress a company looking for someone to sponsor. Every contestant is set in front of a panel of judges and given 90 seconds to perform their call; being scored on their realism.
“My knees are shaking, and my adrenaline is pumping,” Hartman said. “You don’t really know what you were doing up there, you just have to go. It is just muscle memory.”
Going into his second competition Hartman knew that he was better than the competition and believed he would win.
“I thought it was going to be a sweep but, when you are up there, it feels different,” Hartman said.
The judge called 3rd place to the stage, Hartman remained seated.
The judge called 2nd to the stage, Hartman again remained in his seat. He was certain that he had won.
When the judge called the winner to the stage, Hartman began his long stroll to the stage knowing that he deserved the title. And the hard work he had put into the competition only made him want to work that much harder to someday maybe be one of the best in the world.
“When they were calling the awards I started to get real nervous but I tried to not get myself too worked up so I didn’t get let down,” Hartman said.
To date, Hartman has won four competitions including one junior world championship. With the success came gold carrot rings, cash, hunting apparel, calls, decoys and, most importantly, recognition. And the thought of being sponsored came into Hartman’s mind.
Riding the building momentum of his calling, Hartman was tipped off on what was to come in the future. When one of Hartman’s friends from hunting mentioned something about being sponsored, he knew that it was his time.
“(Being sponsored) was kind of a surprise but I knew that I was ready for it,” Hartman said.
At a age 13, Hartman went professional and became sponsored by Drake Waterfowl, a duck and geese hunting outfitter. By being sponsored, Hartman is given free calls, decoys and gear to endorse and talk up, while either out in a competition or hunting with some friends.
Hartman is currently being sponsored by Drake Waterfowl systems, Echo championship calls and is affiliated with Winchester. He is also a team member for Drake Waterfowl Young Guns System, where kids e-mail in their questions to be answered by Hartman.
Being blessed with a talent that is both rare and unheard of, Hartman tries to remain low-key and modest. But Hartman knows that calling and hunting is what he wants to do with his life and has the talent to make that possible.
“Seth has the kind of drive that makes him feel that he can always improve,” Banner said. “And he’s the only person I know who can train for only a week and rise to the occasion and win. If he keeps working hard he could someday be a world champion.”