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Secrets of the Call Makers

Sage advice from four of the nation's most respected call makers 
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With such a wide selection, how do you decide which call is best for your hunting needs? Following is sage advice from four of the nation's most respected call makers about duck calls and calling.

Greg Hood is founder and president of Hoodwinked Game Calls of Clarksdale, Mississippi, which currently manufactures a call offered as a Ducks Unlimited membership premium. Todd Heidelbauer of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, carries on his family's call-making tradition established by his grandfather, Frank Heidelbauer, 50 years ago. Call making also runs in the family of Rod Haydel of Bossier City, Louisiana, whose father, Eli, used his expertise as an accomplished saxophone player to develop one of the nation's most popular duck call brands. And, Jim Olt's family business, the P.S. Olt Company of Pekin, Illinois, has the distinction of being the oldest game call manufacturer in the world.

Most modern duck calls fall into two basic categories: single-reed calls and double-reed calls. A favorite of contest callers and traditionalists, single-reed calls are known for their wide tonal range and for being easy to blow in terms of the amount of air pressure that is required to operate them. Hood says, "I typically hunt with a single-reed call because I like its versatility. When you have a single-reed that is tuned properly to your voice, all you have to do is to talk into the call (saying the words hoot or wit) to sound like a duck. You can also vary the pitch of the call simply by raising and lowering your voice."

A well-known issue with many single-reed calls is their tendency to stick or "blow down," when too much air pressure is applied to the reed. "A duck call is basically like any other woodwind instrument," Heidelbauer says. "The sound is produced by the vibration of the reed on the tone board. In many single-reed calls, when you blow too hard, the air pressure lifts the reed right off the tone board. The reed continues to vibrate, but in mid-air, where it makes no sound."

Although single-reed calls can be modified in a variety of ways to be more tolerant of varying levels of air pressure, double-reed calls are generally considered to be more user friendly. The tradeoff is that double-reed calls lack the range of single-reed calls, especially on the high end of the scale. "In a double-reed call, the upper reed serves as a vibration suppressor, which prevents the call from sticking," Olt says. "This enables just about anybody to get a decent sound out of the call no matter how much air control they have."

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