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Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2020 6:25 pm
by AppalachianHollers
I know nothing about duck calls—never tried using one, nothing. I want to begin hunting them this fall. Can anyone explain the lay of the land when it comes to duck calls and make recommendations, pointing out parallels (if any exist) to the turkey call world? There at least there seems to be a legit reason to get at least 3-4 calls at a minimum, aside form the joy of it.

I assume people get addicted to buying more calls than they use , as with turkey calls. I can already tell there’s a robust custom call market.
What call(s)’s worth getting? Is it reasonable to only get one?

I’ll be in East Tennessee hunting woodies, teal, Canada geese, in the early fall (not expecting calls to play much of a role here), and whatever is in the sky that’s legal in the main season.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 8:28 am
by Rick Hall
One parallel that comes to mind is that the right turkey diaphram call will likely do a better than passable wood duck "sweet" for the right operator. Similarly, it's easy do do both wood duck "sweets" and teal tweets with the same "6-in-1" type whistle. I managed well enough with a whistle for both during my Mid Ohio Valley years.

But...a "wood duck," per se, call will do nearly, if not, the entire range of wood duck sounds more accurately than any whistle I'm aware of, to include the long drawn-out and well spaced "sweeeeeet"s of a wood duck looking for company, which is far and away the most effective wood duck sound I'm aware of - and, perhaps, the easiest to imitate. (NOT the "sweet, sweet, sweet"s of a woodie in flight!)

By the same token, while it's easy to get teal tweets out of 6-in-1 whistle by presenting short bursts of air as if you were starting to gargle to add spot on trill, whistling won't always offer the same downrange leverage as hen teal kacks. Good callers can squeeze passable teal kacks out of most any "mallard" type call, but again a "teal hen" or "blue-wing" (green-wing hens kack, too) call, per se, or a "mallard" call tuned extra high, will kack more accurately.

I'm no longer a big Canada hunter, but never found them very particular and readily tolled them with simple clucks and moans through now obsolete "resonance" calls. And, as with most, if not, all calling, timing and cadence trumping tone by a mile.

As with turkey calling, opinions on "best" calls vary wildly, but here are my start-up suggestions in the above mentioned categories:

6-in-1 whistle - The Primos Power Drake is as accurate as any and the loudest and crispest of the umpteen duck whistles I've owned.

wood duck call - If there's a more accurate wood duck call than Duck Commanders, I've missed it.

hen teal call - Haydel's "Big Blue" (NOT their metal-reed BT-85 squeaker) double-reed is accurate, loud and inexpensive.

Canada call - "Short-reeds" are the current favorites of most, and I've tolled them with a cheap, fresh-off-WallyWorld's-shelf RNT Goosezilla, but think it best to leave inexpensive starter suggestions in this category up to others.

That said, the Primos whistle is the only one of the above that I still use regularly in season. I call my wood ducks with sweeeeeets from the higher-pitched of my "speck" calls, which is spot on and capable of carrying farther than "wood duck" calls I'm aware of And I've teal-tuned a Stanley Deceiver "mallard" call to be spot on hen teal, while being capable of carrying farther than any "teal" call I'm aware of. And my Canada call is a Gander Valley XXX I've tuned to be my snow/blue/Canada call.

Which is to say there's no end of room to grow from the start I've suggested - and that's a whole lot like turkeys. (In the "way back when..." I did magazine work, I did a piece for Outdoor Life titled "Fine Tune For Turkeys" on tactics and modifications for getting more out of their various calls.)

Have fun with it.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 10:24 am
by AppalachianHollers
Thanks a ton, Rick, for your thorough reply! I take it the Primos is your go-to mallard call?
What purpose do non-whistle duck calls serve? What should I look for there when it comes to mallards, apart from mastering a drake grunt?


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 10:47 am
by AppalachianHollers
I should also add we get pintails around here.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 11:06 am
by Rick Hall
AppalachianHollers wrote:Thanks a ton, Rick, for your thorough reply! I take it the Primos is your go-to mallard call?
What purpose do non-whistle duck calls serve? What should I look for there when it comes to mallards, apart from mastering a drake grunt?


Lord, no. Though Primos makes a pretty good teal hen call, their whistle is the only Primos offering I've found to suit me "best" of its genre. And I don't fool with imitating mallard drakes with it at all, as there are more efficient ways to finish birds within that volume range. Just use the whistle for drawing game in dim early light and dense fog by imitating a mess of teal and/or pintails with it. Can hang it from the corner of my mouth and tweet away while even carrying on quiet conversation with my hunters. But whistling of any sort lacks the downrange leverage of quacking or kacking well, just a whole lot easier to learn and harder to mess up.

The great bulk of my mallard-type calling is done with a RNT MVP, followed by a tuned-high RNT Daisy Cutter for still mornings and extra trashy stuff and a super loud Stanley Deceiver for super far birds on super windy days. Those are all single-reeds that are more versatile but tougher for most to operate than the double-reed designs most "big duck" hunters run. None of which should be requisite for the type of game you're targeting.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 12:11 pm
by AppalachianHollers
Rick Hall wrote:
None of which should be requisite for the type of game you're targeting.


I just want to clarify that I am targeting mallards and other “big ducks,” my initial list was meant to be chronological: first is woodies + teal + goose season in September, then several big duck species open in November, hence “whatever is legal” at the end of the list.

I just am not clear what I should get for mallards.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2020 1:02 pm
by Rick Hall
AppalachianHollers wrote:I just am not clear what I should get for mallards.


Ah, I'd missed that. Double reed calls are the easiest to master but single reeds the most versatile. In our area, Haydel's DR-85 and its hard-bodied twin the Redleg are far and away the most popular double reeds. Though my favorite double-reed before my switch to singles was a "Louisiana sound" prototype Ronquest cobbled for me of what is now this one: https://www.amazon.com/RNT-Double-J-Duck-Call/dp/B001BAIXUC

Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 8:01 am
by Bluesky2012
AppalachianHollers wrote:I should also add we get pintails around here.


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In East Tennessee?

Someone’s been pulling your leg bud. There’s not a waterfowl migration there. It’s all a few wood ducks and resident mallards that left the neighborhood pond.

West Tennessee, yes, migratory birds. East Tennessee, no.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 9:03 am
by AppalachianHollers
I’ve seen brown-headed ducks on the WMAs this year. I assume they’re not canvasbacks, since they don’t have wintering range directly south of us, like the pintails do.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 12:02 pm
by Bluesky2012
AppalachianHollers wrote:I’ve seen brown-headed ducks on the WMAs this year. I assume they’re not canvasbacks, since they don’t have wintering range directly south of us, like the pintails do.


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Canvasbacks run all the way down through Louisiana and further south. They are shot in the Georgia coast, Louisiana, and most anywhere there is a flyway. Catahoula has tons of them. Could have seen a loon or other non-waterfowl species. I don’t know.

Pintails don’t have a consistent migratory range anywhere near you (though technically few migratory birds at all come within a few hundred miles of East Tennessee). Could it have been, sure, seen weirder things, but I’d be very surprised.

I don’t know what you saw, lots of things look brown at a distance, but come season and you have time to see the birds on the wing, I’d imagine you start finding that most every duck you see is woodies, maybe some ringers, and then a few local resident ducks. We will see though. Keep us posted, but make sure you really adequately study bird identification and find a mentor before you pull the trigger. Grebes look a lot like teal, and species limits apply...


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 1:09 pm
by Rick Hall
When I lived and most often hunted along the Ohio River between its namesake and WVa, I saw pintails exactly once during their fall migration. But spring migration was another matter, entirely, as they'd sometimes pop up like mushrooms on most any spring rain sheet water. Both annoying and neat.

Wouldn't be too surprised to learn East TN sees something similar...

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 5:51 pm
by AppalachianHollers
Rick Hall wrote:When I lived and most often hunted along the Ohio River between its namesake and WVa, I saw pintails exactly once during their fall migration. But spring migration was another matter, entirely, as they'd sometimes pop up like mushrooms on most any spring rain sheet water. Both annoying and neat.

Wouldn't be too surprised to learn East TN sees something similar...

I bet that’s exactly it. They were all over the 3-inch water on old millo fields.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 6:49 am
by AppalachianHollers
Ended up going with an RNT Quackhead J-Frame. Cheap, but also as a decently-reviewed single-reed gives me something to practice and master over the summer and fall. First got to find the ducks before we spend big on calls. Already begun looking a bit further west in state for options.


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Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 10:07 am
by Rick Hall
AppalachianHollers wrote:Ended up going with an RNT Quackhead J-Frame. Cheap, but also as a decently-reviewed single-reed gives me something to practice and master over the summer and fall. First got to find the ducks before we spend big on calls. Already begun looking a bit further west in state for options.


You could pay a whooooole lot more for a lot less call. Assuming it's been well tuned, just about everything in duck calling is more important than the material a well designed call is made of.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 5:33 am
by Elvis Kiwi
I learnt with an olt66......now branded and sold as a sonderman 66
they have been around the block for a lot of years ,very easy to make good mallard ducky noises
everything from screaming comebacks n highballs to quiet single quacks and tikatikatika feeding chuckles,my one is currently teaching shooting mate new to the sport what its all about.
the best way to spend your duck call $$$$$ is on a couple of loaves of bread ,take them down to local park and feed the mallards,sit n listen to the ryhthem and timeing of there calling...then try it...if they all shut up....you blew it wrong,probably went louder/higher in note=alarm call,feed another couple of slices of bread and wait till they settle and try again....quiet and right beats loud n wrong.
my current goto call is a hammond RIP mallard..for me its as easy to use as the 66
got a green clear acrilic primos out of one of thier shaker callers (the ones that look like ribbed black :oops: :censored: ladies toy :yes: thats pretty easy to blow but works better out further as it has great loud volume but not so good in quiet,sweet talking mode.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 5:59 am
by Rick Hall
Nothing wrong with learning to do what ducks actually do. But if you quit there, you'll leave a lot of birds in the marsh that exaggerated tones, volume and cadences will toll.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 9:14 pm
by Swim-bait
I've seen you on Old Gobbler. If you've never blown a duck call, I'd recommend that you watch videos of people that know how to use them, listen to real ducks; and record yourself calling when you practice. How you hear yourself and how you actually sound; can be two different things. Recording yourself helps a lot. I wouldn't say you need a lot of calls. There are definitely days where they won't respond to one call, but respond to another. I would go with a good single reed, a whistle, and if you're going after geese too; a goose call. Waterfowl calls can be very expensive. Make most turkey calls look cheap. Have fun.

Re: Explain to a Turkey Hunter What Duck Call(s) to Get

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:53 am
by tvbrewster
Get yourself a Haydel DR-85. Easy to operate and inexpensive.