Rockefeller Plaza was alive with the sound of ducks, geese, turkeys and elk Friday morning, which was strange, even for New York.
And what took it beyond strange was that they were all emanating from a 12-year-old boy.
Greg Hubbell Jr. is a true prodigy, a Mozart of animal calls who is already a six-time California champion and a four-time world champion.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Al Roker. “Getting up on stage is kind of my thing. I like the pressure, the audience, the attention.”
The audience was transfixed as he blew into various tubes and buglelike contraptions hanging around his neck and producing symphonies of bleats, hoots, quacks, gurgles and every other sound that an animal can produce.
He’s so good at it, you wouldn’t have been surprised if he told you he could call a turkey into the oven and get it to baste itself.
His father, Greg Hubbell Sr., says his son has an extraordinary ability to reproduce just about any sound he hears. He was just 2 when his dad realized he could repeat various words that do not roll easily off the tongue of your standard 2-year-old.
“We were driving down the road and he could remember words,” Hubbell said. “I said, ‘Hey, Greg, can you say ‘psychoanalytical?’ He said, ‘Psychoanalytical, Dad.’”
The father threw “Embarcadero” at him and it came back flawlessly. Then Hubbell pulled out the heavy artillery: Supercalafragalisticespialadocious.
“He only missed one teeny little part,” the proud father said.
Animal calling didn’t enter Greg’s life until he was 7 and his father took him to a demonstration at a sportsmen’s exhibition in San Francisco.
“I said, ‘Hey, Greg, whaddya think? You want to enter a duck and turkey calling contest?’ ” Greg Hubbell Sr., told NBC News. “He said, ‘Sure, Dad.’”
So he got a duck call — a short, tubelike affair that the caller blows into — went home and practiced for an hour or so, then went back the next morning and won.
At Greg’s first California state championship, Hubbell said, he went to his son after the first round of the competition to talk about new calls he had heard from the adult contestants. “He stands up and starts replicating them,” Hubbell said.
Now, at the advanced age of 12, Gregg, who plays Little League baseball and dreams of becoming a major leaguer, is a four-time world champion and six-time California champion in calling duck, elk and turkey. He also does goose competitively, and just for fun he does a pileated woodpecker, an owl, coyote and deer. He’s also working on a pig call.
“It’s a gift from heaven, God, Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it,” his father said.
Greg said he practices about 45 minutes a day, usually on the front porch of the family’s home. “Sometimes we go to the duck pond in Palo Alto — that’s where I live — they have a flock of ducks there,” he said.
“Do you become one with the duck?” Roker asked.
“I become one within myself and the call,” he replied.
Already a champion, he intends to keep at it until he’s the Tiger Woods of animal calls.
“My ultimate goal,” he said, “is to be the best in the world, to have the most wins, the most world championships.”