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Tuning a Duck Call

Small adjustments can make a big difference in a call's pitch and volume
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  • photo by Bill Buckley
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Story at a Glance
  • A duck call is a bona fide musical instrument — specifically, a woodwind.
  • There are really just two things to do to tune a single-reed call.
  • An improperly tuned call will present an ongoing struggle to make the right sounds.

The other tuning adjustment hunters can make on a single-reed call is sanding the tone board, which is the stopper piece the reed rests on. "Sanding adds texture to the tone board's surface, and this makes the call raspy," McPhearson continues. "You don't want to get too aggressive with the sanding. Use 220-grade paper or finer, and sand the tone board lightly. You don't want to remove any material, just rough it up a little."

In a single-reed call, a cork wedge holds the reed in place, and after long use, the wedge may harden and fail to hold the reed tightly. "If the reed starts slipping, you may need to replace the cork," McPhearson advises. He says most manufacturers offer replacement wedges and reeds through their customer service departments.

Double-reed calls

Tuning a double-reed call is more involved, according to Rod Haydel. "There are more movable parts: two reeds, the wedge (usually hard plastic in a double-reed call) and the tone board," he says. "Moving any combination of these parts will alter the tune of the call."

Haydel says before tuning a double-reed call, a hunter should note how these parts are positioned relative to one another. This is the starting point for making adjustments. "You should take a fine-point Sharpie and mark how all the parts line up with one another," he says. "This gives you something to measure adjustments against."

Haydel says most changes in a double-reed call are made by moving the wedge backward or forward on the tone board. "Leave the reeds where they are, and slide the wedge back (away from the reeds' tips) to lower the pitch; slide it forward to raise the pitch," he instructs.

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