Duck calls are a unique item that many people want to “try out” before they buy, but that has them going into the purchase process with the wrong idea.
You should get a duck call based on the type of duck you are hunting, and where your usual hunting grounds are (geographic location, as well as distance and open ground, really matters in this instance).
If you’re not keen on determining what’s best for the specific prey you’re out to hunt, we’ve got you covered.
We’re starting off with the five best duck calls available, so you can pick based on quality, duck call brands with a high credibility rating among hunters, durability, and a ton of other features.
There’s a lot more that goes into duck calls than most people think, so strap in and get ready to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about what truly goes into a quality duck call.
Best Duck Call For Beginners
Faulk’s Game Calls Deluxe
Being impartial while reviewing something as simple as a duck call is difficult.
I’ve used it, and I love it, and there’s realistically nothing wrong with it.
Faulk’s has been supplying high-quality duck calls for decades and has plenty of repeat customers. But the funny thing is that it’s usually because they lost their old call, not because it stopped working.
I have to hand it to them: they know how to produce some truly fantastic sounds, all in this small package. Their sounds work wonders for teal and wood ducks but are also great for other species.
Designed with a walnut shell, this deluxe call offers versatility in your duck hunt, while also requiring minimal force to actually blow on it.
Wood is technically revered as being better than acrylic, polycarbonate, or plastic for duck calls, but it does come with its own issues.
Wood can split if it gets too dry, and if it’s too humid, it can make the call basically useless.
Thankfully, Faulk’s makes these watertight. So the only thing that’s getting in is your breath, and the only thing that’s coming out is your call.
Apart from requiring very little input, it mimics a mallard call, which can be very tricky to do.
The wooden housing sounds vastly different from most polycarbonate calls out there, and it’s sealed to withstand the brutal duck hunts that you’re going to put it through.
As icing on the cake, it’s cheaper than most polycarbonate calls out there. What’s not to love about it, then?
|8” x 1”
|Type of Sound:
|Low humming mallard hen sound
Duck Commander Max
Now we get to Duck Commander—a brand we all know, even if it’s only because of the A&E show.
They didn’t land that spot for nothing. The Robertson family makes truly eccentric duck calls that have a vice grip on the market.
As a matter of fact, they actually comprise the rest of this list, because Duck Commander just makes their calls so solid and durable that you aren’t left with many other worthy competitors.
Their Max Duck call is made out of high-impact plastic, which basically means that even if you leave it in your back pocket and sit on it, you’re going to be fine. It will still work.
One of the major draws here, which you’ll hear more about later, is that it’s completely camouflaged.
It’s actually got a one-up on the Faulk’s that we just reviewed because this camo pattern blends in perfectly with your waterfowl hunting attire, as well as the reeds of any marshland regardless of the season.
If you’ve ever heard of those specific hunters who are like waterfowl whisperers, then you know how important a finishing call can be.
Your decoy is planted, you’re close to bagging your game, all you need is that one-off quack to reel them in.
That’s what the Max Duck call is best at, preferably at mid to close range.
Their customer service team is also fit to handle everything that you could ever need since most of them actually use these calls themselves.
|7” x 1”
|High impact plastic
|Type of Sound:
|Finishing waterfowl call
Uncle Si Single Reed
Uncle Si was a show favorite, and this duck call would have been higher on the list, but it’s translucent green.
Faulk’s blends in with the woods, the Max Duck call blends in with the marsh, but this is just going to stick out.
I recommend keeping this one on a lanyard and concealing it beneath your wader until you’re ready to make the call.
However, we can’t solely focus on the exterior, because what’s on the inside is really going to throw you in for a loop.
Somehow, Si’s favorite pick has one of the smoothest single-reed technologies out there.
Single reeds operate by requiring more air at first, and then minimal air to keep it running smoothly, giving you 5-6 second quacks that sound like the real thing.
As for Si’s pick, it comes with a full polycarbonate design, but it’s built thick enough that you won’t have to worry about it cracking or splitting.
Most cur-rate poly calls end up splitting from a bit too much messing about, but this holds its own.
Single reed calls are generally perceived to be for a more skilled duck hunter, but it made it onto this list for one simple reason: it’s the easiest single reed call to operate.
Whether it’s your first hunt or you’re a seasoned pro, the smooth operation will fit your hunting style.
|6” x 1”
|Type of Sound:
|High raspy tone
Commander Ole Raspy
This list is tailored for beginners, which is why you’re seeing a lot of Duck Commander calls here.
They’re just so easy to use that you don’t have to worry about your skill level because your call is going to sound like a pro (or at least pretty darn close).
This low, raspy tone is perfect for attracting hens from medium to short ranges, making it a viable finishing call.
It strictly comes in all black, which is at least better than being bright and visible (looking at you, Si).
Crafted out of high-impact plastic, this one isn’t as durable as the Max Duck call, but it gets the job done without cracking under pressure.
I would say that from using it; you’re actually getting a thicker duck call.
That might be a good thing, it might be arbitrary, but it’s definitely a little bit bulkier.
Despite being bulkier, it doesn’t weigh much, and won’t take up much space.
Create low raspy tones right from the inclusive lanyard, and keep this close to you while you hunt.
The all-black design will help you out during early morning hunts.
|7” x 1”
|Type of Sound:
|Low and raspy to attract hens
Duck Commander Duck Picker Call
The Picker call is basically a hybrid between the Max Duck call and Si’s pick, but it has a twist.
This is one of the original patents from Phil Robertson, a double-reed system with a friction fit, which basically produces a quality sound no matter how hard you’re blowing.
While the light amber color isn’t exactly camo, this median-priced duck call produces excellent sound for a close finisher call.
I wouldn’t recommend using this at long range, but mid to close range should be very effective.
The reason why it made it to the bottom of the list is that there’s almost no way to manipulate the noise, which is why it’s classified as a beginner’s only duck call.
With Faulk’s, you can mimic different sounds and manipulate the reeds, but with the Duck Picker call, it’s very one-dimensional.
It’s effective, just not the last call that you’ll ever buy.
|7” x 1”
|Type of Sound:
|Softer raspy sound
Duck Call Buying Guide and FAQ
What Does a Duck Call do?
Whether you have the best duck call for the money or some kind of a “pro” version, every single duck call is designed to mimic the sound of live ducks.
It’s meant to sound realistic so that other ducks will change their pattern of behavior or even approach you (provided that you are camouflaged), making duck calls one of the most critical pieces of gear in any hunter’s arsenal.
Older duck calls had a hard time making authentic sounds.
Thankfully, all the best duck calls on the market are able to mimic these sounds fairly well nowadays.
It was just difficult before duck calls entered mainstream manufacturing methods.
ARE Duck Commander CallS Any Good?
Good duck calls are hard to come by. In case you haven’t noticed, Duck Commander makes up 80% of this list, and it’s for all the right reasons.
This list is for beginner duck calls, which is why you’re seeing Duck Commander all over the place.
They offer very linear designs: you blow into the call, it produces the same sound just about every time with little room for manipulation.
Because they produce steady calls, they’re great, but if you like to try and toy with your calls like some people, Duck Commander might not be the right fit for you.
But for what they are, they are extremely good. They’re beginner calls with pro-level durability.
Just to touch on a few points, most of the Duck Commander calls on this list share similar brand features, such as:
- Heightened Durability: Whether it’s high impact plastic or acrylic, these things can take a serious beating. You can leave them in your back pocket if you don’t want them on a lanyard, and not worry about sitting back on them. The reeds will be fine. They’re scratch resistant and built to last, which is why some people have had theirs for 20+ years without fail.
- Easy to Use: They’re notoriously simple to operate. They require minimal blowing, whether they’re double or single reed systems. Overall, the sounds are pretty smooth regardless of your skill level with duck calls.
- Simple Finishing Calls: Getting your finishing to call down pat can be tricky, but Duck Commander duck calls basically do all the hard work for you. Their reeds are designed to be used in mid-range to short distances, giving a great finish right before you make your move.
As I said, they’re definitely beginner calls, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
I still use my Jace Pro call from time to time.
It’s not like you’ll become a seasoned pro and never use a Duck Commander call again, you just might feel more confident exploring calls that are easier to toy with in terms of the sound.
How Many Duck Calls do You Need?
This is where you’re going to find some divisive posts here, maybe even some publications, but you only really need two calls.
That’s a lot less than people think, but so long as you can master a few different sounds, two duck calls will do.
Even if you grab one of the top-rated duck calls on the market, you’re going to need one for calling and one for finishing.
Finishing calls are basically mid-range to short-range only. They produce a quacking sound that’s better heard from short distances.
However, while you only need two physical duck calls, it’s important to know everything that you should be able to do with them.
There are eight different duck sounds that you should be able to make from two duck calls.
Greetings calls are about four to nine notes, depending on the distance of the duck or goose in question.
For this, you keep the same note going strong, but slowly apply less force when blowing into the call each time.
It acts as a mysterious lure, telling the ducks “That other duck is getting farther away,” while also greeting them. It might pique their curiosity enough to get them to come closer.
Did you know that some ducks (and other waterfowl for that matter) can get shy when they hear a call?
They might ignore it completely. Well, if you can learn the lonesome call, one that sounds like a desperate hen, their instincts are going to kick into overdrive and send them straight to you.
It’s basically one of the most effective calls in your arsenal, but it can take time for the duck to approach you.
This is why a lot of hunters don’t bother with it; you have to have some degree of patience to reap the rewards.
Whistling is what every young duck hunter should learn first.
It’s simple enough to do on any reed system, and it gives you a way to practice all other types of calls by getting the blowing patterns down.
While whistles aren’t the most effective, it’s good to bring this call out when the others aren’t working.
You can learn this in two minutes flat, giving you one call in your arsenal before you try the others.
This super-simple call is a follow-up to a lonesome call. It’s basically five notes long and you blow into the call really hard, and really fast.
It’s alarming; it tells the other ducks “Hey, there really is a lonesome hen over there,” and can get them to close in on you.
Keep in mind that they’ll be very vigilant of this one, especially if they can see a hen already around. Hens usually tend to stick together.
Hail calls are hard to master but can be a great way to lure in waterfowl.
These call patterns are typically very long, and very loud, so you might be short of breath when you’re done.
They’re as loud as can be, which will alert the pond, but if it goes on for too long then the ducks might just end up ignoring you. Hard to master, worthwhile to attempt.
If your prey is flying high (hundreds of feet in the air), this is going to gather their attention and begin their descent.
Your first note lasts for a while, followed by a succession of shorter notes afterward.
Think of the comeback call, but a little bit longer. You’ll want to blow into your duck call while aiming it to the sky.
Many duck hunters skip this critical call, and I can’t for the life of me understand why.
They want to get straight to more difficult calls, but a simple quack can be what differentiates your calling game and actually brings in ducks to your spot.
It’s not enough to just get the beginning of your quack down, either; you need to be able to end it with that loud “CK” sound, otherwise, you just won’t sound natural.
I put this at the bottom because it’s definitely not the most important, but it’s still something you should know how to do.
Feed calls can be erratic, and to be transparent, they often sound more ducky to us than they do to your prey.
Not the best, but still something you should learn how to do.
What is the Difference Between Acrylic and Poly carbonate Duck Calls?
While the material might not seem very important, given the fact that it’s not part of the reed, there’s actually a lot of value in the exterior material of your duck call.
If you’ve got one of the best wooden duck calls, you’re going to get a hybrid mix of what acrylic and polycarbonate duck calls can do.
Wooden calls are usually preferred by seasoned pros and long-time duck call users, but acrylic and poly still have their place.
Acrylic duck calls sound very sharp and can get very loud—even louder than wooden calls.
Granted, it means that they’re a little more unnatural sounding, but if you know how to manipulate a single reed acrylic duck call, then you’re onto something.
Acrylic is dense and difficult to break, but it’s not impossible to split these duck calls or cause a massive crackdown on the side.
I would just advise being careful if you’re not storing one of these on a lanyard.
Poly carbonate duck calls are a mix of acrylic and wood when it comes to loudness and sharpness.
The call sound rattles out of the bottom of your call and makes the whole thing vibrate, essentially echoing the sound.
Since you want the call to be as natural-sounding as possible, you want it to be as loud as possible.
Polycarbonate calls are built pretty toughly, just a notch above acrylic calls, and they’re very dense.
The carry weight is usually about 0.6 oz more than acrylic calls, and while that doesn’t seem like much, every little bit of weight in your hunting gear counts.
So what’s better?
It’s up to you.
The reason that most manufacturers, including Duck Commander, still use acrylic and polycarbonate is that they’re similar in cost, and provide some versatility in their duck call lineup.
You’re good to go with either type of call.
Which is Better: Single or Double Reed Duck Calls?
You’ll see this question surface time and again.
In most instances, duck hunters will bring one single reed call with them, and sometimes a double reed call.
You might notice that a lot of beginner duck calls are double reed, and that’s for good reason.
Double reed duck calls have a lower tone on average and produce less noise, but require much less effort than a single reed.
You can consistently blow on a double reed call and have a good sound come out of the end, but it also limits your ability to manipulate your duck call and create different tones, like the ones listed above.
Double reed calls are better for beginners but are viable for any level of expertise if you know what you’re doing.
You’ll often find that double reed calls, because of their limitations, are generally finishing calls more than full-range duck calls.
Double reed calls require a lot of air to get them going, but once the reeds get going you can breathe steadily without too much force.
Single reed duck calls are more versatile.
You can create a wider variety of sounds with them, like many of the ones listed above, but you will have a harder time.
With a single reed call, when you blow on it, you have to continue your air pressure the whole way through.
You’ll start to notice that most single reed calls aren’t actually good for finishing, but rather, they’re good for long-range calls to lure your prey in.
You can use more sounds with a single reed, but they are generally perceived as expert-level calls.
You should start using one when you feel comfortable with double reeds.
There’s not a huge price disparity between both types, either.
The best cheap duck call could be a single or double reed because it doesn’t take a lot for the manufacture of nice duck calls to just add in that second reed system.
They come in the same size as call casings and generally work the same way.
I would say that a single reed unit is better, based on versatility.
You can just do more with them, but that’s not to discredit double-reed systems.
With The Correct Call, The Hunt Is On
Using the incorrect duck call is among the biggest mistakes that most hunters make, new and seasoned alike.
If you want to encounter as few mistakes as possible (and that is what you want to aim for), you need to have the right call for the job.
Learn the difference between different call types, when to use them, and how to strategically position yourself for the sound to travel, and you’ll be golden for every single hunt going forward.