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Duck Calls 101 at Cabela's

Duck Calls 101

Author: Sean Sutherland

Your purchase of a duck call is an investment in fun and excitement. There are few greater thrills in hunting than witnessing a flock of ducks as they sizzle though the air, transfixed by your calling.

Duck calls have a long history in North America, with call makers dating back to the 1850’s. Many call styles have been produced and used over the years with varying degrees of success. However, the Arkansas-style duck call, made famous by the pioneering Stuttgart, AR call maker D. M. "Chick" Major, became the most popular call design. When used to its fullest extent, the versatile Arkansas-style call is capable of calling ducks from huge windswept lakes to tight timber holes.
Arkansas-style duck call
Parts of an Arkansas-style duck call:

The barrel, or mouthpiece, is the "blow-through" end of the call. Barrel length and diameter play key roles in the volume and sound of a duck call.

The insert holds the reed and cork over the tone board. The exhaust port is the channel leading out of the call. Exhaust port diameter controls the built-in back pressure of the call, dictating volume and user control.
Call Materials
Call Materials

Modern duck calls are made from polycarbonate, acrylic and wood. Each material differs in price, durability, volume and sound quality.

Wood is the traditional medium for call makers. With the proper machinery, wood is easy to work with, and results in a beautiful duck call with a smooth, realistic sound. To stand up to the rigors of hunting, wood with high oil content is the best choice. Dense, high-oil woods such as cocobolo and bois d’arc (hedge) are not highly susceptible to changes in moisture and temperature. Wood laminate is also a solid choice for durability.

Though resistant to moisture and temperature change, wood calls require a bit of in-field care. Wood calls should be kept in a coat or shirt pocket, as bumps and bangs can mar eye-appealing finishes. Keeping any call, especially wood calls, close to the body also ensures the sound will remain consistent through cold, damp mornings on the marsh.

Acrylic has become the most popular material for high-end duck calls. While acrylic is more difficult to mill than wood (and more expensive), its in-field durability is exceptional and sound quality is superb. Acrylic is unaffected by moisture and temperature extremes.

When tuned similarly to an identical wood call, an acrylic call will be quite a bit crisper and most likely louder. While many callers prefer the smooth sound of wood, the commanding range of acrylic is often an advantage in a variety of duck-hunting settings.

Polycarbonate is the most economical call material. Calls constructed of polycarbonate will be durable, impervious to weather, and, in the right hands, will consistently call ducks. It is a good material for heavy-use field calls.

Polycarbonate does not have the exceptional sound of wood or acrylic, though it’s price advantage is indisputable. It is especially suitable for beginners and experienced callers looking for a reasonably priced, reliable duck call.
Single and Double-Reed Call Setups

Arkansas-style calls are available in single and double-reed configurations. Single-reed calls give the user a bit more control over call volume and sound. Generally, double-reed calls have a bit more "ducky" rasp right out of the box, and produce realistic low-end sounds. Experienced caller often differ on this subject. The choice between the two setups comes right down to personal preference. With proper practice, either call has the capability to work ducks.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any musical instrument, practiced skill allow the duck caller to get the most out of a duck call. Every first-time call buyer should also purchase a quality instructional CD or DVD. A good instructional source, will teach the fundamentals of duck calling, making time spent practicing time well spent. When on the right track, a beginning caller will improve rapidly through practice. Having an experienced caller with a proper calling technique as a guide is also very beneficial through this formative process.

The Choice is Yours

Ultimately, you must decide on a duck call that suits your style and budget. Every call is different – two identical models may have subtle, yet noticeably different pitches, volumes and air requirements.

Upon entering the exciting world of duck calling, remember that practice, patience and experience are the key attributes that take beginning duck callers to the next level.

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