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Clean Up Your Call

Routine maintenance and summer practice can be crucial to success when opening day arrives
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  • photo by Bill Buckley
Image of
Story at a Glance
  • Good duck callers are made, not born
  • Call care and cleaning are essential
  • Don't forget to read the birds – this is practice you can achieve only when you are out in the field

If your call's reed is cracked or chipped, it may be time to replace it. Most call makers make replacement reeds available to their customers. These reeds come in varying degrees of thickness and are cut, or trimmed, in slightly different manners. Reed thickness is matched to fit the call.

Before you pull your call apart and remove the reeds, be sure to mark the placement of the pieces with an indelible pen, like a Sharpie. This will let you know exactly how the pieces originally fit. Make a mark on the tone channel so you know where the reed was before the call was dismantled.

Remember, too, that you can alter a duck call's sound by moving the reeds in or out. Lengthening the reeds, or pulling them out, will make the call blow harder and will produce a deeper sound. Shortening the reeds will make the call blow softer and will raise the tone to a higher pitch.

Keep in mind, too, that if you have an expensive acrylic call, you may want to send it back to the manufacturer for reed replacement, tuning, or other adjustments. Most call makers prefer that you send them the call rather than try to fix it yourself.

Don't forget to read the birds

The ability to read working ducks is an essential aspect of calling, but unfortunately, there's no way to practice this skill during the summer. By midseason, reading birds becomes instinctive for many callers, but after a long off-season, reading ducks can be challenging during the first hunts of a new season.

Remember to look for subtle clues from the birds and react immediately with your calling. As call maker Fred Zink explains, "As soon as the birds get indecisive, I'll hit them immediately with one or two five- to seven-note greeting calls. Telltale signs are when the birds begin to move their heads and necks a lot from side to side or when their wing beat or flight path starts to waver. If you wait for them to start to slide away, it's often too late."

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