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Southern Illinois loses a champion

  • In this undated photo, Tim Grounds displays one of his world-class goose calls at the Waterfowl tent at John A. Logan College's Hunting and Fishing Days.

    In this undated photo, Tim Grounds displays one of his world-class goose calls at the Waterfowl tent at John A. Logan College's Hunting and Fishing Days.
    Logan Media Services photo

  • Here, Tim Grounds is pictured with participants (including son Hunter, far right) in one of the many Goose Calling Competitions he sponsored over the years at John A. Logan College

    Here, Tim Grounds is pictured with participants (including son Hunter, far right) in one of the many Goose Calling Competitions he sponsored over the years at John A. Logan College
    Logan Media Services photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 10/1/2018, 5:31 PM

JOHNSTON CITY -- The world of goose calling lost a legend on Sunday afternoon.

Tim Grounds was killed when the ATV he was riding overturned and rolled down a small embankment near a farm pond in rural Williamson County.

According to a Facebook post by Grounds' mother, Juda, as well as a media release from Williamson County Coroner Mike "Junior" Burke, Grounds was on the ATV spraying weeds at the time of the crash. When he failed to return, friends went to look for him and discovered his body under the ATV just after 7 p.m.

The accident remains under investigation by the Williamson County Coroner's office, as well as the Williamson County Sheriff's office.

Grounds put his hometown of Johnston City on the map when he became a world champion goose caller in 1988, a title he would earn again in 1992 and 1994, using his own call.

Grounds founded "Tim Grounds Championship Calls," a business he operated from his garage at his Johnston City home for several years.

He passed his skills and love for the sport on to others, including his son, Hunter, who equaled his dad's championship status in 2003 at the age of 16, the youngest ever to win the title, and a feat he would go on to repeat in 2005 and 2007 before being retired.

Tim and Hunter remain the only father-son duo to win the contest.

Grounds eventually built a lodge on Prosperity Road just south of Johnston City, where his business continued to flourish with the help of his son.

"He is a better caller than I am; he understands it and is an excellent teacher of the art," wrote Grounds on his company website.

Grounds' calls are abundant and in demand on numerous hunting and outdoor sites including Cabela's and Amazon. He also has a YouTube channel that offers tips on calling and hunting.

Within minutes of his mother's post, Grounds' Facebook page began filling with messages from friends across the nation.

"The world lost the founding father of goose calls and goose hunting as we know it today," wrote Adam Sultenfuss, of Maryland. "So many great call makers learned from his designs."

Local radio personality, Wes Bennett, was friends with Grounds.

"He was always so giving, helping families who had been burned out of their homes, or had losses, taking food, or having it delivered, or giving funds/time/efforts and prayers," said Bennett.

Grounds also supported students and activities at Johnston City High School, often without being asked. His name appeared as a sponsor on several homecoming shirts and he once donated a goose call valued at $300 for the school's speech team to raffle so its members could purchase set items for the IHSA competition.

Grounds lent his celebrity to bring outdoor enthusiasts to Southern Illinois.

"Tim Grounds played an integral part in the phenomenal growth of Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College," said Dr. Steve O'Keefe, spokesman for the college. "His sponsorship of the Tim Grounds World Open brought some of the biggest names in the hunting industry to the college year in and year out, and his name alone gave the event instant credibility."

O'Keefe said what he will remember most about Grounds was the delight he took in working with young people inside the Waterfowl tent each year at the event.

"Tim was a tremendous outdoorsman and ambassador for the Southern Illinois hunting industry and Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College," O'Keefe said.

"Tim Grounds inspired a young generation of waterfowl callers," said Les Winkeler, sports editor of The Southern Illinoisan.

"After winning a national calling championship in Easton, Maryland, he was able to parlay that success into a waterfowl call empire, and not just here in Southern Illinois but everywhere. His duck and goose calls are used around the world. He kept waterfowl calling competitions alive here for 30 years and was a regular sponsor of the event at National Hunting and Fishing Days."

Winkeler said when outdoors enthusiasts talk about waterfowl equipment, the name Tim Grounds quickly comes to mind.

"People know who you're talking about," he said. "When it came to hunting or fishing here in Southern Illinois, Tim was the guy. And he always treated me very nicely. He was a very knowledgeable guy. He owned a hunting club and made a number of videos about hunting and calling. His son, Hunter, is carrying out his legacy -- kind of a chip off the old block."

Fellow enthusiast Tyler Coleman from Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, summed up Grounds' legacy in his Facebook post this morning.

"Legends never die," he wrote, "they live on in everyone they influenced."

• John Homan contributed to this article.