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7 Deadly Duck Calling Mistakes

Avoid costly errors and improve your calling this duck season
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Story at a Glance
  • Even the best callers make mistakes, and these mistakes are what most often cost birds in the bag.
  • A key to effective calling, according to Fred Zink, is to read and understand the body language of ducks while they are working.
  • A common mistake is failing to adjust your calling tactics to changes in weather and duck behavior.
  • It's a good idea to add a quieter finishing call to your lanyard.
  • You have to have confidence in your calling ability, and this only comes through experience with live birds.

6. No maintenance

While most waterfowlers spend considerable time and effort maintaining their shotgun, boat, and decoys, they often completely neglect their duck calls, which can severely degrade their sound and tone. Haydel offers the following advice to keep plastic duck calls working as they should. "Soak calls overnight in water mixed with a little liquid soap to loosen up any particles that might be stuck in the reeds," Haydel advises. "The next morning, run water from a faucet backwards through the call to flush the particles out. Use a crisp dollar bill or dental floss to clear away any remaining debris that might be stuck between the reeds."

Most duck calls will hold their tune well for at least two or three years, but after several seasons, they may require retuning. Reeds and other internal parts may need to be replaced. "Most call makers offer retuning services and replacement parts for a small fee," Haydel says. "In our case, you can send us your call, and we'll retune it and replace any worn out parts. We also make a retuning kit that will allow you to do it yourself. It includes reeds, wedges, and o-rings and provides easy-to-read instructions on how to position them to get different pitches and levels of raspiness."

7. Forgetting to practice

Novice waterfowlers often embrace the challenge of learning to call ducks with great enthusiasm and spend countless hours practicing. But the learning process for many duck hunters ends once they have achieved a certain level of proficiency. Haydel recommends that even expert callers should invest some time in practicing before and during the hunting season. "It's best to practice outside rather than inside a house or car because that way your calling will sound more like it does when you're actually hunting," Haydel suggests. "When you call inside, the sound reverberates off the walls and gives you an inaccurate sense of what your call will actually sound like in the marsh."

Curtis offers this additional advice. "One of the biggest mistakes beginning callers make is trying to emulate other callers rather than ducks," he says. "When you are practicing, don't listen to a recording of some other guy calling; go out to a refuge or even a city park and listen to live ducks. Or buy a CD recording of live ducks and practice making those real duck sounds on your call. The same goes for being taught to call by someone else. A great calling teacher will help you learn to operate a call and make it possible for you to sound like a duck, but that will only get you so far. You still have to know the cadence and inflection used by real ducks to become an effective caller."

And Ronquest believes there is no substitute for real hunting experience. "You have to have confidence in your calling ability, and this only comes through experience with live birds," he concludes. "Many hunters simply freeze when ducks start working because they are afraid to make a mistake. But you have to be in control and be willing to engage the birds. Now, you are going to make mistakes and mess up on flocks, but when I get so good that I no longer make mistakes, I'm going to quit duck hunting because it won't be fun anymore. It's the challenge that makes duck calling and duck hunting so addictive."

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