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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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Haydel agrees, "For the average hunter, double-reeds make the most sense. While single-reed calls often have to be blown with precise air pressure to sound right, you can blow a double-reed call in many different ways. You can grunt real hard into them, or you can just kind of buzz the reeds like I do, or you can blow straight air into them. Any one of these methods will enable you to produce a sound that is somewhere in the vicinity of that of a hen mallard." The materials from which duck calls are made also can have an impact on their performance in the marsh.

Traditionally, all duck calls were made of wood. More recently, plastic, and harder acrylic calls have gained popularity because of their consistent performance in all weather conditions and for their clear, resonant tone. Haydel advises, "A wooden call will absorb sound, which gives you a softer, smoother tone, while an acrylic or standard plastic call will give a sharper, more high-pitched sound. In most cases, these differences are too subtle to make much difference, but, in some situations, such as in a high wind when you want to get as much volume as you can, acrylics are hard to beat." In general, the design and tuning of calls has a greater influence on how they sound than the materials that are used to make them. Hood recalls, "When I was taught by Butch Richenback several years ago, he told me that one call will do it all.

Every call has its own character, but every call can be tuned to sound the way you want." Considering the aforementioned characteristics, waterfowlers should select calls that will perform best in their particular hunting area. For those who hunt on big water areas, such as large lakes and flooded agricultural fields, it pays to have a high-volume call that can be heard by passing flocks at great distances. Heidlebauer says, "In South Dakota, we hunt a lot of big water areas with no trees, and generally experience high winds. In this environment, you need a call with a large air channel that allows you to use a lot of air pressure and to produce a lot of volume." The pitch of a duck call also is critical to how well it performs in different environments. Olt says, "On big water, I prefer a high-pitched, raspy call. In the old days, the horse cavalry used a bugle to sound the charge rather than a trumpet, because a higher-pitched sound carries better."

Hood adds, "When you are hunting open water, you want a call that produces sound that is not only loud, but also travels quickly. High-pitched, raspy calls are better for this purpose because they produce high-frequency sound waves that move faster and travel farther than lower-frequency sounds."

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