How to Tune Up Your Duck Calling Before Opening Day

By author of The Duck Blog

Say your calls have been in storage all summer? Here's the best way to get in a little last-minute practice

Some guys can jump out of bed and sound like a duck or goose. Most can't. Get your calls sounding good before the opener, even if you've ignored them all off-season. Photo © Bill Konway

You know it’s wrong. You vow to do better. But every year before the opener, you shamefully admit that you haven’t blown your duck calls since the previous season. And the last thing you want is to sound like you’re playing a kazoo or New Year’s Eve party horn in a crowded marsh.

Don’t panic. Sure, it’s always best to practice your calling year-round, but even the biggest procrastinators can still dust off those musical instruments and have them singing sweetly by opening day. Just follow the advice of these Realtree waterfowl pros.

“Waiting until the last minute to tune your call is what a lot of duck hunters do,” said Dennis “Dr. Duck” Loosier, co-host of Black Cloud on Realtree 365. “It’s probably the last thing on most checklists. Decoys, boat maintenance, and guns seem to be first on the list. Duck calls and a little practice seem to be last, and I’m guilty of it as well. Life is busy, and real-life distractions such as work and family make it difficult to find time to practice. Plus, it’s hard to practice at home without annoying the family.”

Loosier said last-minute calling preppers should start by examining calls for repairs and then tuning them.

“Replace the reeds and corks for starters,” he said. “I always carry extra reeds and corks in my hunting gear all season long to make adjustments as needed.”

Jeremy Dersham, owner of Ridge and River Running Outfitters in Wisconsin, agreed, saying hunters must first check their calls for mechanical problems.

“I’ve lost the amount of times I’ve reached for a duck or goose call and the guts are gone, including inserts, reeds, O-rings, or wedges,” he said. “Or better yet, an O-ring snaps or a reed cracks, and the wedge is dried to the insert. The bottom line is things break down after time. Checking your calls and making sure you have extra parts or having an extra few calls in the blind bag can make the difference between bringing birds home or coming home empty-handed.”

After your calls are in working order, the next last-minute step is obvious: Cram in as much practice as possible.

“After the cork and reeds are changed, I find the best time for me to practice is driving down the road without a passenger to annoy,” Loosier said. “People will look at you like you are crazy at the red lights. But I have found it’s the best time to practice without interruption. I do a visual of ducks in the distance in my head. I practice a routine calling them in and sitting them down on the water with difficulty, and working the call to convince them that the decoys are the real thing. Of course, in my head, I always achieve the goal of success.”

Dersham recommends seeking auditory assistance to achieve realistic sounds.

“If you want to sound more like a duck or goose this season, there are a bunch of people sharing how-to tips, from types of calls to different techniques, on platforms all over the internet,” he said. “If you’re old-school, many waterfowlers might share an old how-to cassette tape or CD. But if you really want to learn a few new sounds, head down to some of your favorite duck and goose stomping grounds to just watch and listen. Try mimicking the sounds you hear from the different species of ducks, and try to pay close attention with what they’re doing when making those sounds. In my opinion, there’s not a better teacher than the different species of ducks in their own environments.”

That’s solid advice. Now get busy: Your calls are waiting, and duck season is right around the corner.

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