By Wade Bourne
There are two styles of duck calling: passive and aggressive. Passive callers rely on subtle sounds to convey that all is well. This style is especially well suited for call-shy ducks, calm days, or when no other callers are vying for the attention of circling birds.
Aggressive callers, on the other hand, call louder and more frequently. They demand the birds’ attention rather than request it. Their highballs are louder, and their comeback calls are more urgent. Aggressive callers try to get a lock on the birds’ attention and not let go until it’s time to shoot.
When ducks begin circling or dropping toward the decoys, many passive callers chuckle softly or don’t call at all. But sometimes close-working ducks respond better to a more aggressive calling approach, and this is when the single-quack call comes into play. This call is the single note of a mallard hen blown repeatedly with about a one-second interval between the notes: quack . . . quack . . . quack . . . quack . . . . It is not a timid call and should be blown with moderate volume and intensity so incoming birds can hear it and steer toward it.
The single-quack should not be confused with the lonesome hen call. The former is a series of quacks with a drumbeat tempo that may extend a dozen or more notes, and this series is repeated continually as ducks are dropping toward the decoys. The latter is two or three contented quacks with much longer intervals between the notes.
I have used the single-quack series for years and have always considered it my secret weapon for finishing ducks. A few seasons back, duck calling “Champion of Champions” Mike McLemore told me that he too relied on the single-quack to bring birds down into the decoys. He said he believed that on most days this call was much more effective than quiet feeding calls for finishing ducks and particularly for drawing them those last few yards over the decoys.