10 Ways to Help your Duck Calling

Duck hunting season is here and one method of tactics used in luring ducks to you is duck calling. There are many ways to go about this depending on who you ask and the area that you’re from. Joe Balog from the Duck Blog has some tips that he acquired from experiences and interviews. Here is his take on getting more results from your duck calling.

Duck calling is still something of a mystery to some. You’ve burned countless hours practicing with your call in the truck, watching instructional Youtube videos, and making, well, noise out in the marsh. Occasionally, your calling results in a fly-by that’s close enough for a pass shot. But that’s not what you’re after.

You’ve seen good callers command ducks into the decoys—and that’s what you want to learn to do yourself. This list of tips, compiled with the help of top waterfowl guides, call makers, and thousands of field hours, will help you be a better duck caller.

You Can’t Quack for Squat
The range of sounds replicable with a duck call can be overwhelming. While more advanced calling sequences can work, the easiest sound is grossly underrated: the simple quack. When a single hen is allowed to land in your spread, you’ll usually get to hear her raspy, guttural quack. It’ll be slightly urgent, as if she’s lost from her friends. Yet that sound is often overlooked in modern calling routines.

The Fix: Start at step one, and learn to quack. Doing so will often bring ducks to the spread when seemingly nothing else will. On still, calm days, or in areas with heavy hunting pressure, a single-note quack in repetition is deadly. Don’t leave home without it.

You Bought a Call Because It’s Pretty
Your buddy is a pretty good duck caller, and he firmly believes his $150 custom call is the best one made. But when you try his favorite acrylic masterpiece, the sounds you make … well, they’re not good. Regardless of your buddy’s instructions, you simply can’t make a decent sound with his duck call. When afield, the ducks sure aren’t buying it.

The Fix: Find a call that fits your “air”—not the one that looks pretty or your buddy likes best. This was a tip given to me several years ago by Duck Commander’s John Godwin. While most of the guys in the Commander crew blew a modern DC model, Godwin chose an older model call that performed best for him and his calling method. Call manufacturers offer calls with a variety of reed, barrel and end-piece designs. The best way to determine your best fit is through simple trial and error at a dealer with several different calls.

You’re Learning from Duck Hunters, Not Ducks
Information abounds these days, including information about duck calling. The source for much of that information is provided by folks in the contest calling realm. Now, almost without fail, those guys are good at calling ducks. But a contest-calling “routine” can sound absurdly over the top—particularly if you haven’t learned the basics yet.

The Fix: Build your knowledge base by listening to the real thing: ducks. Spend as much time as possible near a refuge or park that holds lots of birds, and not just during duck season. Download a voice recording app on your phone, record the sounds you hear, and use them to provide instant access to the sound of live ducks. Imitate what you hear—and save the contest routines for down the road.

They Don’t All Quack
Here’s something else you’ll notice if you spend time at a refuge: you hear many more sounds than those of hen mallards. You’ll hear teal peeping and wigeon and pintails whistling. Drake mallards make a gweeb sound that really gets your blood flowing, and gadwalls are vocal with a soft, distinct quack of their own. You’ve never tried any of those sounds while hunting.

The Fix: Try them. Many companies produce calls to mimic wigeon, pintails, drake mallards and gadwalls. Give them a try, especially on calm days when calling can be tough. Late season mallards can be real suckers for a good drake whistle, as the males seem to more vocal when pairing with mates for the spring.

You’re a Grunter
Everyone knows it’s wrong to “blow” into a duck call; doing that simply produces kazoo-like sounds. So you grunt, deep from within your gut. Occasionally the noise you create sounds like a duck. More often, it leaves you out of breath and sounds like a guy grunting on a duck call.

The Fix: While it may come as a great surprise, the more advanced callers become, the more they actually blow into the call. Veterans learn to “play” a duck call like an instrument, using forced air that is pressurized in the throat or roof of the mouth, rather than in the stomach. A tell-tale sign of proper technique is the ability to produce ducky sounds at all volume levels, down to a whisper. Again, start with a single quack to learn proper air pressure. Worry about the other sounds later.

You Make the Wrong Sounds at the Wrong Time
So you’ve done some practicing, and can make pretty good sounds on a duck call. Yet, you still suck at calling ducks. You’re baffled by how often the birds simply ignore you, or even flare away. But while hunting with a veteran, chills go down your spine while you watch him turn birds into the spread with a single hail call at just the right moment. He says something about “calling on the corners,” but you’re not really sure what that means.

The Fix: Learn to watch and “read” ducks. Only give hail or greeting-style calls at birds when they appear to be leaving the area. If they are approaching, or any single bird in the flock is coming into the decoys, stay quiet, or at most, use single quacks and some feed calls. If the birds circle over and then pass by as if looking for another destination, hit them with a hail call; that’s the mysterious “corner.” When they turn back to you, tone it down again.

by Joe Balog – the Duck Blog