"With early-season geese, the hutta-cluck works very well over water and grasses, like alfalfa or in a pasture. Simply say 'hutta-hutta-hutta' into your call. Emphasize on the 'T.' That's with either a short-reed or a flute," Eldredge says.
"It's important to start with a reference note. That is, like you are humming into the call. I say 'grrrr' or 'grrrrit.' That reference note will get the reed vibrating. From there, you can go into the hutta call."
Weather conditions, time of year, locale, and bird behavior all play a role in determining what Eldredge pulls out of his bag of tricks.
"Reading birds is part of it," Eldredge says. "Sometimes, they may not want to hear much, so you give them some low-end growls and a couple of clucks. If they turn, you go light with the hutta-cluck, and hutta-cluck them all the way down.
"If they don't respond," Eldredge continues, "change up, stop, slow down, speed up, and figure out what they want to hear. Don't be afraid to try different things. In general, early in the season, once you get geese on a string, they usually come in because there are a lot of juveniles."
Eldredge seldom employs a hail call for geese. Instead, he relies on flagging, a well-designed decoy spread, and staying well hidden, to get the birds' attention and draw them near.
"If the birds get close after doing the hutta-cluck, but maybe start to peel off a little bit, slow your calling down, and do a cluck and a murmur. That translates into confidence--that the birds [decoys]are sitting there, eating. That's what you want to do when you are calling geese—imitate a feeding flock," Eldredge says.
Across the Mississippi River, Richie McKnight honed his goose-calling prowess in agricultural fields throughout Illinois. Though not yet 30, McKnight has distinguished himself in the competitive calling ranks by winning nearly every major contest in the nation. Last fall he captured first place in the prestigious Winchester World Open.
"When I was learning how to call geese the first thing that I tried to get down was the cluck," McKnight says. "I kept working to get that one perfect note. A lot of guys will pick up a call and don't have a good snap or pop to their calling. That's because they don't practice.