by Gary Koehler
Good duck callers are made, not born. Becoming efficient in the field takes more than dusting off your duck call two days before the opener and blowing a series of quacks through the barrel.
True enough, some folks have a better ear than others for producing sounds attractive to waterfowl, but even those rare naturals must practice to get the most out of their calls. One of the keys to getting ready for opening day is practicing your calling with a purpose. Put a little thought into your practice sessions, and the payoff will be greenheads backpedaling over your decoys.
In addition to practicing individual greeting, feeding, hail, comeback, and lonesome hen calls, spend some time blowing realistic series of calls that you might have to make while hunting. To do so, visualize a common calling scenario, and practice transitioning quickly and smoothly from one call to the next.
For example, you might start with a hail call as if you are working distant birds. As you envision the flock breaking toward you, transition to five-note greeting calls, and then to quacks mixed with feeding chatter as if the birds are circling your rig. Imagine the lead birds starting to slide away, and quickly transition to a comeback call. Of course, your perfectly timed comeback will instantly "flip" the imaginary flock, so practice transitioning seamlessly to feeding chatter as the birds lock up and drop toward your decoys.
Practicing specialized calling situations is also helpful. For instance, still, overcast days might require you to shift from a prolonged single-hen series to a choppy five-note plead call, then back to the single-hen series before transitioning into subtle feeding chatter. Every hunting day brings diverse challenges, so being able to move smoothly from one call to the next as you read the birds greatly enhances your chances for success.