Joe Balog was born and raised on the Great Lakes, where he's earned a living as a charter boat captain, pro bass fisherman and outdoor communicator. As waterfowl editor for Realtree.com, Balog was bitten by the duck bug while hunting the world famous St. Clair Flats. Between duck hunting, fishing, and dog training, Balog spends some 300 days a year on the water.
Balog on Calling Contests
Each year there are contests held at various locations throughout the country where waterfowl enthusiasts get together and demonstrate their calling skills on stage. Taken as a whole, I believe these contests are good for the sport of waterfowling. They increase enthusiasm and participation, and that’s always good. But the irony of them always leaves me scratching my head. You didn't really expect me to write a blog on calling contests and not rant a little, did you?
A guy gets up on stage with a duck or goose call, makes a bunch of noises that don’t even mimic those that come from real ducks or geese, and then is judged on his “skill” by a bunch of other human beings, none of which actually speak “duck-anese," far as I know. The top finisher is dubbed a Champion caller. Yet, no ducks or geese were ever called. After winning, the Champion will usually sign an endorsement contract with a call manufacturer, and the call he or she used is then marketed and sold to the general hunting public.
Let me reiterate: no ducks were ever called. But here I am, a guy just trying to bring a few greenheads into the spread on a cold December morning, and I’ve got a World Championship duck call hanging on my lanyard. It’s a lock, right?
Just because a guy’s a good butcher doesn’t mean he can cook a steak. Now, I’m not saying that most competitive callers can’t bring a duck feet-down into the decoys. Actually, most of them can do a great job not only sounding like ducks, but also working ducks. But to think I’m going to go buy a $150 duck or goose call because it won a calling contest is absurd.
Phil Robertson often states a real, live duck could never win a duck-calling contest. I’ve always found humor in that, and I think he has a point. I often hunt in an area very close to a refuge holding 30,000 real ducks, most of which are mallards. So I listen quite a bit. None have ever made anything but a simple variation of about three basic noises. So that’s what I aim for when practicing my calling.
I’m sure there’s time when ear-bleeding high balls and mega machine-gun feeding chuckles work in the real world. But, for now, I’ll stick with quack quack quack.