Mastering the Comeback Call

This often-neglected call can make all the difference 
by Wade Bourne

A flight of ducks shows interest in your decoys, but is still wary. As the birds swing downwind, their body language shows indecision. Some of the ducks seem anxious to decoy. Others want to continue on their way.

This is the time for the comeback call, the convincer that says to the birds, "Come back and join my group—right now!" Blown at the right moment and with proper persuasion, this call can overcome reluctance among circling birds and draw them back as if on a string.

So what does a comeback sound like, and how should it be used? The comeback is similar to a five- or six-note hail call, starting high and running down the scale in pitch and volume. The difference is the message the comeback communicates, its cadence, and its degree of urgency. In a hail call, the notes start high and ride down the scale with an even tempo. But in a comeback call, the first note is louder, longer, and more forceful, demanding attention. And the successive notes are slightly sharper and faster.

A friend of mine who is an experienced duck guide told me years ago, "When blowing a comeback call, you have to lean on 'em. You don't ask ducks to come back. You command them to do so. You have to overpower their will to go someplace else."

My mentor also emphasized that timing is everything when using the comeback. "Call to one duck," he instructed. "Look for that one bird that's out on the edge of the flock and showing a little more interest than the others. When you see this bird start to waver, blow the comeback call right then. More times than not, this will pull this duck back toward you, and the others will follow."

But what if they keep going away? "Then pour it on 'em," he continued. "Call louder and faster, trying to change at least one duck's mind. You have nothing to lose at this point."

So the next time ducks are working your decoys without committing or they begin to lose interest and start to drift away, try hitting them with a comeback call. Why not? Air is free, and lung power only increases with more exercise.