Sometimes ducks want a lot of calling; sometimes they want a little. It's up to a caller to determine which the birds prefer on the day he's in the blind, then to offer them just the right amount of calling to coax them in.
Rod Haydel of Haydel's Game Calls has plenty experience in making this determination. He says hunters should tenaciously study how ducks respond to different calling styles
and volume levels, then stick with the combination that works best. "Their preferences will change from one day to the next, based on several different factors," Haydel says. "Hunting pressure, temperature, sky condition, wind
(or lack of it) and other variables affect how ducks want to be called."
For instance, Haydel says birds that have been in the same area for several days can get "stagnant" – educated by hunter pressure as to which areas and calling styles to avoid. Haydel says he has better luck attracting such call-shy ducks with passive single quacks spaced a couple of seconds apart. This communicates the caller's presence, but it puts no pressure on the ducks that might send them winging the opposite way.
In contract, Haydel notes that "new" ducks (just migrated into the area) are typically more susceptible to an aggressive calling style. "When new ducks are showing up, I'll blow a lot louder and more often," he says. "These ducks haven't learned their way around yet, and they're more eager and excited to join birds on the water. This is why a more forceful style of calling works in this situation."
Other guidelines Haydel follows include: (1) on calm wind days call less; on windy days call more; (2) on overcast days call less; on clear sky days call more; (3) when it's cold, call more; when it's warm, call less; (4) call more after a fresh rain has flooded new areas and the ducks are excited about finding a new food source.
"These are general rules to follow. You should still make a point of experimenting with calling styles each day you're hunting," Haydel continues. "Pay special attention to a duck's wingbeats. If it's flying with a steady wingbeat, and you make a call, watch to see if the wingbeat changes, especially if it pauses. If you see such a reaction, keep doing what you were doing because that duck likes what he's hearing, and others might like it too.
"The bottom line is to just figure out what's working the best, and continue doing it. Sometimes you might need to back off on your calling. Other times you may want to pour it on'em. Whichever, if you adjust your calling to suit the ducks' mood on that given day, you'll be a lot more effective at pulling birds in over the decoys