Follow along for several basic duck calling tips that you will need in order to become a better caller and in turn increase your chances of bringing the ducks into shooting range.
The very first thing I like to tell people that are wanting to learn how to blow a call is they need to understand how to hold their hands. I put the middle of the call where the barrel and insert meet, right in the "Y" of my pointer finger and thumb, and then wrap those 2 fingers around the call. I can then use my other 3 fingers and my other hand and fingers to control the back pressure that is needed when calling. Back pressure can actually change the depth of the sound.
The next thing to understand is that you NEVER, EVER, EVER use the air in your cheeks to blow the call. The air should come from deep down in your diaphragm. If your cheeks are poking out like a blowfish when you are blowing a call, then you are doing it WRONG! Learn how to control the volume of air coming from your diaphragm, and you can control how loud or soft the tone you produce is. This is critical when you are trying to get birds to finish.
The last thing you need to know is sometimes it is better to just PUT THE CALLS DOWN! Sometimes calling can actually deter ducks from committing. This normally happens later in the season, especially in heavily hunted areas.
Four calls that you absolutely must know are the hail call, the feed call, a basic quack, and a whistle. The whistle is something every duck hunter should carry in the bag. I personally believe that a whistle can be more effective than a duck call in quite a few situations.
1. Hail Call
The hail call is something that should be used VERY sparingly. The only time I will use a hail call is to initially get the attention of some birds that are passing in the distance. My rule of thumb is if the birds look like they don't want anything to do with you, then a hail call could work. Do not use the hail call if the birds are within 1-200 yards or coming straight at you. The call should be loud and long and then taper off in length and volume. Some people say "tick" while others say "cat". I personally like "tank" when I am calling. Example: taaaaaaaaaaaank, taaaaaaaank, taaaank, taaank, taank, tank, tank, tank. I will do this once or twice, and if the birds don't turn, then I am wasting my time and chalk it up to the birds being on a mission that doesn't involve being shot by my Beretta A300 Ultima.
2. Feed Call
I use this type of call quite a bit. When birds are working, I will use a combination of feed calls and quacks. I use "taka, taka, taka" when I am running a feed call. I will increase and decrease the volume of air I put out as well as the back pressure I control with my hands. Example: takatakatakatakatakaTAKATAKATAKATAKATAKAtakatakataka.
3. Basic Quack
These are just basic "tank..........tank....tank tank....tank" and used when birds seem to be committed. If the birds are very committed, I will do an occasional quack that is very faint just to keep them confident in the spread. Again, using the basic quack in conjunction with the feed call can be hypnotic and deadly to unsuspecting birds.
A whistle can really seal the deal when you have birds working. Mallards, pintail, teal, widgeon, and wood ducks can all be replicated with a simple duck whistle. A good caller can even get a gadwall sound with a whistle. Gadwall is very nasally though, and this should be one of the advanced calls you should master after you have all the basics down. When it comes to different whistle styles for different species, your best bet is to search the web for sound clips of the different species.
These are the basics that I use in the blind along with some advanced calling that we will go over in the future. If you can get these basics down, then your chances of getting ducks to finish will multiply 10-fold on your next trip out to the blind.
AUTHOR | BRAD WILSON