by Rod Haydel
I'll never forget that first time 18 years ago when dad told me to "get on the whistle." We ended up getting about 75 green-winged teal to light in the decoys that morning. Naturally, we had big ducks on our minds so we didn't even shoot, but we could see an immediate change in their attitudes, and the results of the whistle were overwhelming.
Never underestimate the effectiveness of a whistle. Many hunters don't feel the need for whistles simply because they may not have pintails in their area while they may have mallards, widgeon and teal. As we have experienced many times, these four species of ducks DO respond to the whistle. Our most successful hunts last year were late in the season using whistles in conjunction with our mallard calls. I hunt in a very small pothole in the marsh, which is not usually frequented by teal and pintail since they prefer larger bodies of water. The whistle has made a noticeable difference in helping me attain a daily bag limit.
We try to identify the ducks before we call to them so we can speak their language. At times, however, it can be difficult, and when you mistakenly use the wrong call, it can sometimes be to your advantage. A good example is when you are calling to call-shy mallards. Often a pintail whistle will elicit an immediate response, when perhaps a mallard hen call would cause the birds to flare, forcing you to lean on the call even more.
I know a guide that swears by using our blue-winged teal call on mallards on very windy days. As previously mentioned, using whistles in conjunction with your mallard calls is an effective technique when everyone in the blind wants to call. That is an excellent opportunity to have one person lead off on his mallard call while the others fill in using whistles. The most obvious opportunity our whistle affords is that it is a 4-in-1 call, which gives him a chance to quickly duplicate the sound of incoming ducks with only fingertip control. It is also helpful to select decoys based on the species found in your particular area.
One of my favorite ways to use whistles is in an effort to get youngsters to start calling. I often get a twitch when I hear fathers say they don't get many opportunities to hunt, so there's no way they are going to let their kids "mess up a flight by squealing" a call. There is absolutely no sound a youngster can make on a whistle that will scare ducks. I don't care if he plays "Mary Had a Little Lamb"—ducks are accustomed to hearing all kinds of whistles and peeps. These are natural sounds to our fine-feathered friends—and anything the child does is going to simulate some type of bird. Let your young hunter start enjoying the real fun of the sport...the calling! It not only will make him feel he had a part in bringing in that duck, but also it will probably make him/her want to go with you more often, and earning you more passes from the home front. Who knows, one day that little kid may put old dad to shame in the calling arena. Just ask my dad.