While sounding like a real duck is the first step, knowing how and when to call is another skill that will take some time to master. It is very important to observe how the ducks are responding to difference sounds and cadences. Here are 10 basic tips that will help you get started.
1. Not All Ducks Are Callable - Don’t get down if every flock of ducks doesn’t respond whether you’re first starting or experienced. If the ducks appear to know where they are going odds are they will not respond. Signs of callable ducks are fluttering wing beats or a group working a large area, not flying straight line.
2. Don’t Over Call – Why make more noise if you don’t have to? When the ducks are doing what you want them to do remain silent. In most cases over calling will result in ducks skirting your decoys. There are a few exceptions to this rule but that's another subject for a future article.
3. Start Soft And Work Up - When first lifting your duck call to your mouth begin with softer sounds, then work up to louder more aggressive sounds if there is no response. Many duck hunters will make the mistake of hitting them hard right away spooking them, especially educated or call-shy ducks. By starting soft you’re also lest apt to produce a note louder than expected.
4. Who’s The Leader - When more than one person is calling in your group choose who will be the leader and have the others make more contented sounds. This will help to prevent over calling or too many aggressive sounds being made along with making it sound like there is a very large group of ducks on the water. Examples of contented sounds are quacks, feed calls, and soft greeting calls.
5. Forgotten Drake Mallard Whistle - Many hunters forget the drake mallard whistle. This is a great filler sound and a sound that won’t spook educated call-shy ducks. Most often kids can learn how to use call quickly and they will feel included and get even more excited when working a group of mallards.
6. Match Your Call To The Species - When possible use a duck call that’s made to sound like species you’re calling at, meaning that you want to speak their language. Although gadwall and pintail may respond to a mallard call better results are most often achieved using a gadwall call or pintail whistle respectively. When hunting with a group mixing mallard and other species of calls can be very effective.
7. Keep’em Close - As soon as you notice approaching duck/ducks drifting off line from your setup hit them with a greeting call to get them back online. If this doesn’t work hit them with a comeback call. By starting with greeting, and then working up to a comeback call you won't start out to aggressive.
8. Nothing To Lose - If the ducks look like they’re going to land short of your spread or just aren't responding to your calling get louder and more aggressive. At this point you don’t have anything to lose and at times these demanding sounds will get their attention.
9. Never Call At Ducks Right Above You – Always avoid calling ducks that are straight above your location. Even when I have felt totally hidden this has always flared them straight up never to return.
10. How Well Are You Hidden - Because mallards are very good at pinpointing the source of sound one should limit their calling when the ducks are close and concealment is lacking to avoid being busted. This is how the saying "Call at their wingtips" came about, meaning if their wing tips are visible their probably a good distance away off to the side or rear.