By Wade Bourne

A wizened old duck hunter once said, "There are duck callers, and then there are duck call blowers." The first group actually carries on a conversation with the birds and knows how to coax them into the decoys. The second group just makes duck sounds and hopes the birds come in. Obviously those in the first category are usually more successful than those in the second.

Ryan Crew of Pinson, Alabama, is a duck caller. Crew is the 2009 Alabama state duck calling champion. He's also a self-described "waterfowl addict," hunting in Mississippi and Arkansas as well as his home state. Crew is an avid student of the sport and especially how ducks communicate with each other. Through years of observation, he's learned many of the subtleties of these birds' "language," and he incorporates what he's discovered in how he entices them to the gun.

For instance, Crew says one of the real challenges in calling ducks is working them close, trying to pull them those last few yards into close shooting range. Crew says in this situation many callers blow a feed chuckle, but this is unnatural unless it's a true feeding situation. Instead, most of the time Crew uses series of single quacks to steer the birds into his decoys.

He explains, "If ducks are coming on their own, I'll just be quiet and let them come. But if they show any hesitancy about working or if they start veering off or lighting wide, I'll use a series of single quacks to steer them to the landing hole. I may hit them with a quick little four- or five-note greeting call to regain their attention, then I'll switch back to the single quacks to lead them in. Now I'm not hammering them. Instead, I give them just enough persuasion to coax them in."

Crew says frequently this approach works better than a feed call. "If you're not in a true feeding area like a flooded field or a weedy marsh, you really won't hear ducks making a feed call, especially later in the season. So if you're hunting in a resting area or maybe over open water, the feed chuckle isn't natural. This is when single quacks come into play.

"Just blow several quacks spaced out in a steady cadence, like a hen gathering her brood. Oftentimes incoming ducks will home in on those quacks and fly straight to the sounds. I just keep quacking until it's time to drop the call and raise my shotgun."