Conversely, while hunting in flooded timber or small, secluded marshes, softer, lower-pitched calls are more desirable. "If you think of sound waves as ripples on a pond, working ducks generally respond to the outside edge of the sound, and then work in toward the source of the calling," Hood says. "If you blow a loud, open water call in the timber, you will get a lot of echoing that makes it hard for ducks to pinpoint the source of the sound. When you use a softer, lower-pitched call, the sound waves move slower, echo less, and are much easier for ducks to follow."
Perhaps above all else, however, selecting a duck call is a highly subjective decision. "A duck call is a very personalized item, and a call that is perfectly suited for one hunter might not work at all for another," Haydel advises. "For example, some hunters might need a larger call because they have big hands, while others may want a call that is harder to blow because they have more powerful lungs. My advice is to try out as many calls as you can, and then pick the one that just feels right to you."
Making the Most of Your Call
When it comes to calling tactics, it's no surprise that call makers have some strong opinions. Greg Hood maintains, "The biggest mistake most callers make today is trying to sound like one duck. Listen to a bunch of ducks on the water, and you'll notice that every duck has a distinctive voice, just like people. The more you can vary the pitch of your calling, the more natural your calling will sound. When I hunt, I try to sound like four different ducks. These include a very high-pitched young hen on the high end, a real low-pitched, coarse old hen on the low end, and two medium-pitched hens that fall in between the two on the scale. Once I have captured the attention of a flock of ducks, I'll give them a series of [hail calls] using these four different pitches, and, frequently, the birds will just lock up and fall into the decoys on the first pass."
Rod Haydel recommends that even experienced callers should continue to experiment and learn new calling tricks. "It's easy for people who hunt a lot to get into a routine or systematic way of calling. But you often have to change your calling tactics and try new things to successfully call ducks that have received a lot of pressure. If one call doesn't get a reaction, try something else. I'm always experimenting in the field, trying to find a new sound or trick that will give me an edge."
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