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Where do I start when choosing a call? Or my next call?

By Jeff Matura

jeff matura with a limit of drake mallards taken on the upper mississipi river

The first consideration when choosing a mallard duck call should be the amount of volume needed or desired. This is very important as any call is designed to sound it's best at a given range of volume. Sure softer sounds can be produced with an open water style call, but realistic softer sounds that don't go flat every once in a while are far easier produced with a timber style. The ability to consistently control the sound of a call is very important, especially when calling at mallards just outside of your decoys. One sour note and they may not be coming back.

Timber Calls produce the softest and most realistic sound along with being to very easy to control when finessing ducks into the decoys. By no means just for the timber, but an excellent choice to use in any of the following situations; tight closed in areas, calm days on any size of water, call shy or heavily hunted mallards, hunting over ice, and whenever you need to sound as realistic and natural as possible. This style would be my personal favorite and the most often used.

Mid-Range Calls offer the greatest degree of versatility to the hunter and are perfect choice when an open water style may be too much but yet a timber style just isn't enough. With a slightly larger diameter exhaust port this style has both a realistic sounding low end, fairly simple to control, and enough volume to get their attention in strong winds. By no means would I consider this a replacement of the timber style for close up work.

Open Water Calls produce the greatest volume and can be a good choice when you're hunting wide-open areas, windy conditions, migrating ducks. Utilizing an exhaust port with a large diameter this call is designed to deliver its best sound at a higher volume levels and the choice of competition callers. While many are advertised to produce the loudest hail to the softest quack it is very difficult for most hunters to get realistic sounds along with control of volume on the low end in respect to volume.

Making the right choice. To effectively call mallards throughout the season a hunter will need at least two of the above styles on their lanyard. For instance extra volume will be needed when hunting during high winds, migrator days, competitive situations, or when hunting wide open areas and pulling birds from a distance. But too effectively work educated or call shy ducks a softer more easily controlled call will yield better results. If you're looking for your first call you can't go wrong with a timber style.


Single Reed or Double Reed

While the decision between single or double reed is really a matter of preference there are some subtle differences worth noting. If your first getting started, or just don't want to practice any more than you have to I would recommend purchasing a double reed. Today many double reed calls are capable of producing nearly the same volume as a single. The only limiting factor of a double reed is that you will not be able to change the pitch of the sound as much as a single reed. Please note that double reed may have a tendency to stick when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. I certainly am not going to say you need to use a single reed to kill ducks, but it is my preferred choice.


What Are The Best Calls Made Of?

Many hunters are interested the answer to this question but in many cases for the wrong reason. There is no magical duck call, and whether you spend $130 for a fancy acrylic call or $40 for a quality wood/polycarbonate call it's up to the operator to make it sound like a hen mallard. Making the choice between acrylic, polycarbonate, or wood is simply a matter of your budget and personal choice in regards to appearance. Acrylic is the choice for contest callers that seek maximum volume along with sharp crisp sound and with manufactures that want to sell a lot of product as this material is most easily turned on CNC lathes. In contrast wooden calls will produce a more natural mellow sound. Since I am looking to put ducks in the frying pan versus judges I have never been that concerned with this question. I think it is far more important when choosing a call to consider type per above along with single or double reed design. Bottom line, a hunter with competent calling skills is going to kill ducks using wood, polycarbonate, or acrylic.


How To Become A Great Duck Caller
Follow these basic steps to become a great caller get the most out of hunting opportunities.
Mallard Duck Call Reference Sounds
The accomplished caller reaps many rewards both in increased hunting success and personal satisfaction.

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