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Banding Together for Waterfowl

10 Tips from Top Callers

Experts share secrets for calling late-season ducks
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  • photo by Avery Outdoors
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By Wade Bourne

He was a grizzled old Arkansas guide with a double-barrel attitude. On this morning, he’d had a couple of clients in his party who wanted to help with the calling. “We’d have shot more ducks if they had left their calls in their pockets,” the guide grumbled. “There are duck callers, and then there are duck call blowers.” He undoubtedly felt that these two men belonged in the latter category.

Sprinkled throughout North America, however, are hunters who truly have the gift of gab with waterfowl. They are genuine calling experts who know which sounds to make, and when to make them, to consistently pull ducks and geese into close range.

The following calling tips from 10 such authorities will help you bag more waterfowl and experience the special fulfillment that results from talking these birds down into the decoys.

1. Try Aggressive Chatter on Circling Ducks

Jim Ronquest of Holly Grove, Arkansas, was the 2006 world champion duck caller and is a full-time producer of RNT Game Calls’ television shows and videos. Ronquest has guided hunters on the duck-rich Arkansas Grand Prairie since boyhood.

“Late in the season, when ducks are educated by hunting pressure, they sometimes get shy of the traditional comeback call. They’ve heard this call over and over, and I think they get leery of it,” Ronquest says.

 “So, when ducks are swinging and are at the point where it would be appropriate to blow a comeback call, I’ll use an aggressive feeding call instead,” he says. “This is a fairly loud, rapid series of kuks with a lot of growling into the call. This is louder and more demanding than regular feeding chatter. I tend to think of it as an assembly call. I push it pretty hard, and I vary the air pressure to break the sounds up.”

Ronquest says ducks aren’t used to hearing this call, so they’re more likely to respond to it. “It’s all about inflection and insistence. It’s another way of saying ‘get in here right now,’” he explains.

2. Develop a Dialouge With Specks

Kelly Haydel of Bossier City, Louisiana, is promotions manager for Haydel Game Calls, the company founded by his father, Eli. Kelly has also guided in the Louisiana marshes for 22 years. His favorite bird is the specklebelly (white-fronted goose), and he’s a master at calling these cagey birds into his decoys.

“When calling specks, you have to develop a dialogue with an individual goose,” Haydel advises. “When he makes his two-note yodel, blow it right back at him. He calls, and then you call. You have to develop a rhythm and a dialogue that goes back and forth.”

Haydel says if the goose quits calling, the hunter should continue calling with the same rhythm. “Just call as though the goose is still responding to you,” Haydel says. “Sometimes he’ll skip two or three sequences, but if you maintain the rhythm, he’ll join back in.”

What if the specks circle just out of range and won’t finish? “Try ground-clucking to get them to come on in,” Haydel advises. “Just say hut-hut-hut into your call. Cluck rapidly five to 10 times, take a breath, and do it again. If the geese turn in, keep calling until you reach for your gun.”

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