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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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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.

by Wade Bourne

A duck call is a bona fide musical instrument — specifically, a woodwind. Sound is created by blowing air across a vibrating reed. A skilled duck call "player" can produce notes of differing length, pitch and volume to simulate calls made by the birds. Truly, a good caller is a talented musician by any measure.

But to make quality sounds, a duck call must be properly tuned. It must be set to the caller's air pressure and style of blowing so it will effortlessly produce a full range of high to low notes. In contrast, an improperly tuned call will present an ongoing struggle to make the right sounds. The following tuning tips from two experts in the game call business, Bubba McPhearson of Primos Hunting Calls and Rod Haydel of Haydel's Game Calls, will help keep your duck calls in top working order.

 

Single-reed calls

"There are really just two things to do to tune a single-reed call," McPhearson begins. "First, you can shorten the reed. Most duck call reeds are made of Mylar, and you can trim them to produce a higher pitch. Take the call apart, remove the reed and cut off a sliver with a pair of fine scissors.

"But you don't want to cut off too much," McPhearson warns. "You want to take off only four to five thousandths of an inch at a time. This is barely enough to see that you're trimming it. Then reassemble the call and blow it to see if you like the sound. If you want the call even higher pitched, cut off a little more and try it again." McPhearson says shortening the reed actually makes a call easier to blow, but removing too much reed also reduces volume.

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