Duck Calling Tips
Most duck hunters have experienced the full spectrum of duck reactions to a duck call. Some days, hunters can consistently drop group after group of ducks into the decoy spread. Other days, the same calling tactics are ignored or spook the ducks. A few duck calling tips can help improve your duck calling game.
Duck calls are some of the most effective conservation tools ever created. Great calling can lure ducks so close you can distinguish a drake from a hen, allowing for a clean harvest. Bad calling will give the ducks an express ticket to Mexico.
Mistakes will happen. Every duck caller, including world champions, makes mistakes and, sometimes, leaves the blind without a full limit. Knowledge is the key to effective waterfowl calling. Knowing what to do is essential, but knowing what not to do is equally essential. The following is a list of mistakes most often made by waterfowl hunters, along with some tips to prevent them. Keep in mind knowledge is only useful if you put in the practice time to utilize it.
Excessive calling is a common mistake separating effective callers from run-of-the-mill or bad duck callers. A duck call is a tool with a specific time and place for use. In highly pressured hunting locations, ducks receive a daily concert of duck calls and quickly learn to distinguish the real thing from the imitation. Nonstop, aggressive calling can be effective in areas holding a large waterfowl concentration or in a migration location. In most waterfowling areas, with regards to duck calling, less will definitely provide more.
Calling at the wrong time
Duck calling at the right time is everything. Every duck hunter has, at some point, called to a distant flock just to hear the alerted wing beats of an unnoticed group of ducks spooked by your poorly timed calling. Be observant and learn to read and understand a duck’s body language is essential to calling effectively. If ducks are flying and circling your decoys the way they should, do not blow your call. If they start hesitating or seem confused, give them a couple of quick greeting calls. When ducks start moving their heads around or once their flight path or wing beats start to change, it’s time to blow your call. If you hesitate and the birds start to move away from your decoys, it is usually too late to call them back. In most decoy spreads, ducks want to land from a particular direction. Calling to the ducks at a point that would turn them into a direct landing path can convince them to commit.
Not closing the deal
Just like business, closing the deal is what duck calling is all about, Unfortunately, a lot of duck hunters lack the ability to sweet talk ducks the last few yards to put them into shotgun range. In this age of high hunting pressure, “closing the deal” is the hardest part of duck calling. Hearing and seeing every hunting scenario from Canada down through the entire migration corridor, ducks will find something questionable about your set in about four passes if you don’t get them to lock up quickly. When your decoy spread is lifeless, on a still clear day, you may only get two passes. Your duck calling needs to convince the ducks to commit quickly.
When closing the deal, use lots of short greeting calls, quacks, and feeding chatter. As the ducks come closer, lower your calling volume to where the ducks can just hear you. If a hunter calls with too much volume to ducks that are close, the hunter will send the ducks on an emergency exit. Controlling your volume is key. Many waterfowlers switch to a softer, lower volume call for finish to help control their calling volume.
Another duck calling mistake is developing tunnel vision in your calling routine. Failure to adapt your calling routine to duck behavior and weather changes can cost you duck limits. Ducks can respond differently every day to calling. You need to read the ducks to know what they like to hear. One day, they may positively respond to hard aggressive calling. The next day, the ducks might only respond to a simple quack or mallard drake call. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep trying new things until the ducks start responding. When you find something they respond favorably to, utilize those skills to direct the birds.
Blowing the incorrect duck call
Most people are victims of habit. Duck hunters are no different and, in many cases, blow the same duck call year after year. If a call doesn’t fit your calling style, you will not want to use it or will not use it to its full potential. Many hunters will purchase a call and continue to use it, even though a different call would complement their calling style. Others continuously switch calls without learning how to effectively use one.
Finding a call that suits your calling style and learning to use that call to its full potential will make you a more successful duck caller. The only way to determine the best duck call for you is to test many different calls. Go to a callmaker’s shop or attend outdoor shows or festivals and try each different call. Don’t hesitate to talk to the callmakers, ask questions, and tell them what you are looking for. Callmakers are here to help. At All Terrain Outdoors, we can advise you on the best call for you and your calling abilities.
Lack of maintenance
Waterfowlers often spend tremendous effort and time on a boat, shotgun, and decoy maintenance, but usually fail to maintain their hunting calls. The lack of duck call maintenance can negatively affect the call’s sounds and tonal abilities. Duck calls need to be routinely cleaned to continue to properly operate.
Most calls maintain their sound for a couple of years. After that time it’s best to replace the reeds and corks. In some cases, they should be retuned. Retuning services are usually offered by most callmakers.
Lack of practice
Most new duck hunters welcome the difficulties of mastering a duck call and enthusiastically practice for countless hours. Many duck callers learning process stops once they become “average” callers. Duck hunters become great callers from continued all year practicing, even during hunting season. A lot of people practice while driving. It’s most productive to practice outdoors where you can get a better idea of how your calling will sound in the field.
Many beginning callers try to sound like other duck callers instead of sounding like a duck. You can listen to other callers to learn how to blow a duck call, but there is definitely no replacement for listening to an actual duck and imitating its sounds.
You have to build confidence for effective calling. Building confidence comes from actual hunting experience and observing the ducks reactions to your calls. A lot of hunters are afraid of spooking birds and won’t use their call. The most effective hunters are not only confident but are also willing to make mistakes. The challenges of calling ducks are part of what makes duck hunting addictive and fun.