Waterfowl hunters will tell you it’s majestic and humbling to see a successful duck caller in action.   

The way a natural-sounding duck call is sent out into the universe and is responded with a flock flying right into your spread is empowering.  There’s nothing quite like it in those still, peaceful, early morning hours.

Is this a scenario you’d like to experience?  Then, let’s dive right into the quacks of calling like a boss! 

What is a Duck Call? 

A duck call is a woodwind instrument that utilizes a tone board or sounding board and a reed.  It depends on air pressure to create tone, pitch, and sound.

Duck sounds are made by the vibrations of the reed on the tone board when you blow through the instrument.  There are two main types: 

Single Reed 

  • Versatile with wide range of pitch and tone
  • Raise pitch by lowering or raising voice
  • Just talk into the duck call to produce sound
  • Single/one reed

A single reed duck call requires more air control to ensure it doesn’t blow out or stick.  This happens when you apply too much air pressure and the reed vibrates in mid-air of the chamber.  If it’s not vibrating against the soundboard, no quacking is made.

Double Reed  

  • User-friendly
  • Requires less air control
  • Double/two reeds

Not to be thought of as a substitute or to compensate for improper calling.   

Duck Call Materials 

The two most popular materials are wood and acrylic.  Each has their own benefits and downsides while contributing their own unique properties to a duck hunter. 

Wood absorbs sound providing a smooth and soft call.  It also expands and contracts depending on your environmental and climate conditions.  This can result in sound variance.

Acrylic is loud, projecting, and sharp in sound.  It’s more resistant to environmental and climate conditions proving it has less sound variance that may be useful for your style of duck hunting.  

Where would you appropriately use either type of duck call? 

Enclosed, flooded timbers, swamps, and ponds with heavy coverage will require slow-moving and smooth sound frequency waves that allow the ducks to pin-point the source and follow it.  If it’s too high-pitched and loud, it may be too difficult for the ducks to follow the source. This scenario suggests that a wood duck call would serve you best here.

But, it’s not the be-all, end-all.  If you’re trying to lure in a flock that you spot at its entry zone, then you might want to switch over to an acrylic to get their attention.  Coming off passionate, loud, and attention-getting might just get them curious enough to come down. Then, it might be time to switch up your calls to something more content with a wood one. 

Open lakes, wide waters, little tree coverage, and high wind waterfowl grounds require loud, attention-getting, and fast-traveling sound waves.  This may call for an acrylic duck call. High-pitch frequencies travel faster than low-pitched ones, and they carry better across wind and distance.  It also allows you to use a lot of air pressure and volume to tempt that flock down.

Duck Calls 

How many duck calls do you really need?  How many ways can you use the three main duck calls?

  • Quack
  • Feed call
  • Hail (comeback)

There are differing opinions.  Some of the most-respected duck callers say you only need the above three.  Others say you should learn multiple calls.

It comes down to a bit of both.  With new hunting spreads, you may be able to get away with the basics and variations of it.  Spreads where ducks require more pressure may warrant you getting creative and learning new tricks and sounds. 

Here’s some tricks of the trade to get you calling like a boss: 

  • Blow – don’t whistle.  Blowing allows for a more natural sound to come out the other end.  

If the sound is thin, tinny, not quite naturally duck-like, you might find you’re “pinching the air” with your lips.  Open your sound.

  • Correctly learn the sounds of your target duck species.

It can be hard to learn and memorize varying calls.  Narrow things down by mastering your duck species calls with different sounds.   

  • Practice.  

Self-explanatory.  However, it will be even better if you can record and listen to your calls.  You should also practice using one hand so that you don’t inhibit and muffle the sound and instead use it to direct sound.  

  • Own more than one duck call and have them with you in the field.

Don’t limit yourself to only one type of duck call.  It also allows for using the right type for the moment in which it is appropriate.  You open yourself up for more learning, creativity, and success if you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

  • Try to sound like multiple ducks and not just one.  

You can use different ranges and sounds of the call to mimic maybe three or more different ducks. 

  • Learn the duck calls.  

Ducks don’t tend to drag their speech, so you’ll need to learn the patterns within the calls so you can properly detach your notes, properly descend your notes, and pause when appropriate.  Learn the various “words” to associate and practice with the different calls. This can include known calls and their variations such as: 

  • Duga-Duga-Duga
  • TuckA-tuckA-tuckA
  • Kak-kak-kak
  • Kuk-kuk-kuk 

Can one call do it all?  I think this is less important to answer than it is to address tuning your call.  If you can tune and master various sounds of the same call, you can do great things with it.  Tuning the call for the conditions of the hunting ground, weather, and the mood of the duck allows you to be perceptive and to use the appropriate techniques for the moment.   

Duck Calls: Just One Slice of the Duck Pie 

Choosing a duck call is a very subjective choice, and it should be personalized to your needs and style of calling.  But, it’s not the only piece of gear needed for a successful duck hunt. You might want to see what the best chest waders are to up your duck game.

If you’re not the duck hunter, but you’re doing your part to help, we’ve got you covered.  Duck calls and other accessories and gear make great gifts for your waterfowl hunter.  The best thing about gifting means you really can’t go wrong.  Having multiples, different styles of duck calls, or other gear may prove to be an asset in the blind.

Variety is the Quack of Life 

Experiment and own a few different duck calls.  You’ll soon be able to tell which one fits in your hands, works best with your lung capacity and strength, and can allow for multiple sounds that you can realistically use and master.