I have no hate in my heart for amateur duck hunters.
I’m actually excited to teach them the proper techniques and everything I possibly can about duck hunting.
But if you continue to blow a duck call the wrong way, even after someone has shown you the right way, you’re never going to make it out of the marsh with any bagged game.
In this post, I’m going to show you right from wrong when it comes to duck calls.
There are patterns of behavior you want to incite, but there are also different calls depending on the mating season or your environment that will work best.
It’s going to take situational awareness and a judgment call, but after this, you’ll be better equipped to make those decisions when you need to.
Hold Your Duck Call The Right Way
This is an important first step all beginner duck callers have to master. If you can’t hold it right, then you can’t get the right sound out of it.
You should hold onto the bottom of your duck call with your index and middle finger of your dominant hand, with your thumb wrapping around the other side of it.
When you blow into a duck call, you’re going to slightly raise that index and middle finger.
You’ll still have your grip on the call itself, but you’re going to raise those fingers to allow some of that sound to actually escape the call.
You don’t want it to be too muffled, but sometimes it sounds too sharp or artificial when it comes straight out of the reed end.
That being said, you need to have a stern grip so it doesn’t slip through your hands.
Most of the pressure should be located on the top area of your fingers (closest to your hands).
We don’t want to see anybody holding a duck call all daintily like a cigarette, which is a common mistake newbies make.
You’re going to use this hand to manipulate duck call sounds moving forward.
The other way that you can hold your duck call is by pinching it in between your thumb and index finger, while your other three fingers just sort of rest there.
The sound will come straight out of the reed and echo around you.
This is usually the difference between a short-range and a long-range call: sharpness equals volume.
Learn How To Quack Before Anything Else
The standard quack is your building block for everything else that you will do with a duck call.
A basic duck quack is going to be hard to master, but once you’ve got it, the world is your oyster.
You want to breathe from your diaphragm, not just blow air through your mouth.
It’s difficult to activate your diaphragm, so I’ve outlined the basic process of telling the difference between that and standard breath.
When you activate your diaphragm, you’re going to feel a similar sensation to when you cough or when you laugh.
It’s going to feel like some vocal cords buried behind the walls of your throat are vibrating.
Not tickling, but vibrating. This is the feeling that’ll tell you that what you’re doing is working.
If you don’t have that big of a tickle like you’re coughing, then you’re probably not engaging your diaphragm.
It’s important to engage it because you don’t want to run out of breath too fast.
Exhaling from your diaphragm doesn’t give you that same short-of-breath feeling; it allows you to command more sound with less breath, which is exactly what we want from a duck call.
You’re going to be doing five to seven-note duck calls on a regular basis.
A quack is exhaling from your diaphragm into your duck call reed, then immediately stopping.
You can toy around with different lengths of duck calls, but eventually, you’ll need to perform the same action multiple times in succession to get the desired result and get waterfowl attracted to your decoy setup.
The Right Words To Speak Into Your Call
It’s going to sound silly saying them out loud, but there are some words that you should be saying into your duck call to get the right tone and sound.
Ticka, dugga, whit, dwit, kwit—basically anything with “wit” at the end. Once you get good at it, you’ll sound very close to a mallard.
Speaking these words into your reed is going to sound odd at first, but it’s going to produce results.
Different words in patterns will create different named calls, which we’re going to go over in a minute.
The good thing is that you can toy around with a list of words and make your own duck calls. Just be sure to space them out so it doesn’t sound spastic.
Putting Patterns Together
Once you can say whit or kwit into your duck call after learning one of the two main ways to hold one, you need to pat yourself on the back—you just made a duck call.
However, there’s a long road to go.
You want to make a succession of duck quacks through your call, starting with two quacks after one another.
Whit, whit or dwit, dwit one after another will do. Then work your way up to three sounds, all after each other and spaced out accordingly.
Ticka, ticka, ticka and dugga, dugga, dugga are going to produce a lot of different call patterns.
What I want you to do is work your way up from here so that you’re producing about six or seven quacks after one another.
Once you can do seven quacks in a row, it’s time to work out a system of patterns.
Ducks don’t have impeccable rhythm, so if you space out each quack perfect every single time, it’s not going to sound natural.
You can do the 1-2-3 rule, where the first quack is the longest, the second is shorter, and the third is very abrupt.
You could even do it to a tune, like Smoke on the Water—whatever you want it to be, but you need to get some patterns down so you’re not just quacking endlessly for no reason.
Start out with established patterns, and then create your own.
Different Call Patterns And Words to Memorize
Before I can let you go, there are some duck calling tips that you need to know as a beginner so you can be adequately prepared to make the most out of your duck call.
- Greeting Call: Four to nine notes in succession of one another, usually followed by a let-off and some silence. Greeting calls are just what you’d expect—they greet your prey. This is generally seen as mysterious by other ducks; it piques their curiosity and sends them toward you.
- Lonesome Call: Nothing calls in other ducks like a lonesome hen call. It requires patience since it can take some time before a duck will come over. Many lonesome calls consist of three to five quacks with different lengths. Lonesome calls can vary. You’ll notice that they’re working when ducks start paying attention to the source of the sound and gather around.
- Feeding Call: For this, you want to make a two-note sound by saying dugga into the reed, followed by a brief pause and one more note. You can also use the word ticka for this. Feeding calls take some time to master, but as you’re out in the great outdoors listening to ducks, you’re going to start to pick up on these distinctions.
- Comeback Call: Comebacks are used when ducks aren’t responding to any of your other calls. There’s no set amount of quacks, but you don’t want it to run too long or the other ducks might not be interested in it.
Patterns are going to dictate what the call does for your prey.
Everything starts with a basic quack and saying a few dozen different words into the reed, but it’s how you manipulate those noises that affect the outcome.
Lastly, Know What You’re Using
The three main types of materials used in duck call creation are acrylic, polycarbonate, and wood.
You might find some high-impact plastic in there as well.
They each make slightly different sounds, and some species of duck and geese might be more prone to listening to calls from specific materials.
My advice is to research the breeds native to your area, and see what material will work best for you.
Since you’re only going to be bagging a few ducks while you’re out, it’s okay if your call is specific to one breed and not versatile across the board.
Ready To Lure Them In
Now that you know everything that goes into a good duck call, I recommend that you start practicing immediately.
If only it were as simple as blowing into a reed and letting it do all the work for you, but it’s not—there are specific calls to master, certain timing and patterns of behavior, and depending on your call, you’re enticing different behavior from your prey.
Now that you know better, get out there and do better.