Many hunters simply want to know what the best mallard duck call is. But this question can only be answered by understanding which type will be best suited for the type of hunting situations encountered along with skill level of the operator. For instance extra volume will be needed when hunting during high winds, migrator days, competitive situations, or when hunting wide open areas and pulling ducks from a distance. But too effectively work educated or call shy ducks most often a softer more easily controlled instrument is best. Then again there is still the decision between a single or double reed design. There just is no simple answer to the best, or what is the magic flute so many hunters hunt for.
Open Water Calls Produce the greatest volume and are a good choice when you're hunting wide-open areas, windy conditions, migrating ducks, aggressive ducks, and can be effective when hunting in areas with a high degree of competition. 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 lower end of volume capability.
Mid-Range calls in respect to volume are a perfect choice when an open water style may be too much but yet a timber style just isn't enough. We use this type a great deal throughout the year because they are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of different conditions and terrains. This style usually has both a realistic sounding low end, fairly simple to control, and enough volume to get the ducks attention.
Timber Duck Calls produce the softest and most realistic sound along with being to very easy to control. 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, call shy or heavily hunted mallards, or ducks that you're hunting over ice and whenever you need to sound as realistic and natural as possible.
The situations that you hunt in should be the first set of criteria that you use when choosing a duck call. Why do we believe the situations you hunt should impact your selection? Here's why. If you're hunting a large reservoir you need extra volume to attract high flying or distant mallards, a softer sounding timber styleis not your best choice. However, if you're hunting that same reservoir on a very quiet or calm day, the timber style will be needed to get the ducks to finish. The same scenario could also be applied to the timber or marshes. Even though most hunters would pick a midrange or low range style for these situations windy days require the volume of an open water style. You would also want to use the open water style for attracting highflying flocks coming back from feeding. If you're like us and hunt a lot of different situations, you will need more than one call to be as effective as possible.
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. With that being said I still have a double reed timber on my lanyard and really enjoy it's sound and how easy it is to operate.
So what's best choice between acrylic, polycarbonate, or wood? Your budget, choice of appearance, and personal preference. Acrylic has really become popular choice for contest callers along with manufactures that want to sell a lot of product as this material is most easily turned on CNC lathes. Most would agree that acrylic will also produce the most volume. In contrast wooden calls will produce a more natural mellow sound and since I am hunting ducks versus judges wood has always been my preferred choice. One advantage of plastic over wood is that acrylic will not change in pitch in wet, or require much care. Wooden calls should always be separated when not in so as the insert doesn’t get stuck in the barrel and may need to be refinished throughout their life time. When choosing wood make sure the insert end of the barrel is banded in order to prevent cracking. Bottom line, a hunter with competent calling skills will kill ducks using a call made from almost any material.