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Maintain and Modify Your Duck Calls

Preventive maintenance and an understanding of how your duck call can be modified will go a long way toward ensuring optimum performance.
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  • photo by Bill Buckley
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by Gary Koehler

On the last day of waterfowl season many years ago, a friend of mine tucked his favorite duck call into a pocket of a wet parka, which was later hung on a peg in his basement.

Several months later, when preparing to start his preseason practice sessions, he tore up the house looking for the wooden call. He eventually found it, but the call was in less than pristine condition.

"I don't know exactly what this is," he said forlornly one night over the phone, "but there's something growin' on my call. It's kinda like, uh, fuzzy stuff."

For fear of jeopardizing his health, and the well-being of North America in general, the call was dispatched to the trash can. Who can be sure what type of vile fungus had taken root on the call among the bits of chocolate bars, apple core, cookie crumbs, sandwich wrappers, marsh mud, and leaf fragments hidden away in that damp pocket?

This is an example of the extreme, but there is no question that clean calls are more efficient calls.

"Keep your call free of debris, and it's going to sound much better," says Howard Harlan, a nationally recognized game call historian, book author, and custom call maker from Nashville, Tennessee. "Something as simple as dust can cause you problems with your calls.

"Some people display their calls when they are not using them. They will put them on a shelf or on top of their gun cabinet, and I think that's great, because calls are works of art," Harlan continues. "But they don't think about the dust in the air. And they don't take time to properly clean that call before it's time to go hunting."

Harlan recommends a thorough rinsing of your call before going afield to start a new season. Simply run tap water through it. Or, in the case of a plastic or acrylic call, place the call in a bowl or coffee cup and soak it in a combination of mild soap and water. Rinse well, and let the call dry.

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