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You think you have all of the accessories you need, but do you have the right duck call? Not every duck call is made the same. Each model (and the way you use it) can have a different effect.
Before you go on your next trip, take a look at our favorite duck calls for every experience level.
Comparison Chart of the Best Duck Calls
Haydel’s Game Calls Ha-Yardel-Feets DR-85 Mallard
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Duck Commander Pintail/Widgeon Call
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Faulk’s Game Calls WA33 Faulk’s Deluxe
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Triple Threat Duck Call – Classic Series
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Duck Commander Wood Duck Call
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Buck Gardner Double Nasty II Polycarbonate Duck Call
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What Are Duck Calls Used For?
The call is an accessory that makes the sound of a duck. When you use this type of device, it attracts ducks to your location, allowing you to hunt them more easily. Based on the design of call you have and your skill level, there are three main types of sounds you should know:
Long and Loud Noise to Attract Ducks From Far Away Locations
A Short Sound That Imitates a Duck’s Quack, Will Attract Others Nearby
Short Sounds With Different Pitches; Sounds Like a Duck Eating; Will Attract Others
How Does a Duck Call Work?
The duck call works like a whistle. You blow into it, and the reeds inside vibrate. The vibration of the reeds will create the sound that escapes the device. The sound it makes depends on how thick the barrel is and how many reeds are in the instrument. Larger products make deeper, lower calls, while thinner ones make more high-pitched noises.
Duck Call History
Did you know? The call has been around for four hundred years! Before the invention of duck calls, hunters would trap actual ducks and use the sounds to attract more ducks. They would also use mouth calls to imitate the sound of ducks. The idea for a duck call was born when hunters started to use a dead duck’s vocal cords to attract flocks.
That’s right: hunters would kill a duck, chop its head off, pull the vocal cords out and blow through them. This is still a tradition in some parts of the country as a survival technique. By the end of the 1800s, the first patented duck calls hit the market.
Many duck hunters have their favorites that they swear by when they are hunting; others use different products depending on the situation. Every breed of duck makes a different sound based on their activity, so you’ll want to be familiar with them – and how to imitate them using your call.
What Makes a Great Duck Call?
While experienced hunters will all tell you that they have their favorite go-to product, how you choose your first item depends on many factors. The material is probably the most important, but we will go over that later.
Since you can hunt in several different areas and landscapes, you’ll want one that suits your activities. The reed count will affect the sounds you make, as well as its versatility in different temperatures. Some hunters enjoy caring for their calls, while others like very low-maintenance ones. You should consider these factors before choosing your next call.
The material will have a significant impact on the sound quality, but other factors will change the sounds of your calls. Some models come pre-tuned for particular sounds, while others allow for personal tuning. If you have the know-how to tune your own call – or the ability to follow a tutorial on YouTube – then a product you can tune yourself will be much more versatile.
Other models – like the Duck Commander Pintail/Widgeon Call, one of the products on our list – boast the ability to make different calls to attract different breeds of ducks. If you are hunting different breeds, this can save your hunting trip.
Where you will be hunting is very important when considering your next purchase. Will you be shooting in warm, humid areas? Or is there a chance of rain or other moisture getting into your device? Some materials are more porous than others and will swell up in humid or wet environments. This will affect the product’s performance.
Other than material, the reed count is probably the most essential factor in choosing a call. The reeds will determine what type of sound it makes when you blow into it. There are single reed, double reed, and triple reed versions. Triple reed versions are not very common, although one makes an appearance on our list.
We’ve broken down the differences between single reed and double reed duck calls in the chart below:
Single Reed vs. Double Reed Duck Calls
Makes Louder Calls
Harder to Blow Into
Make a Wider Range of Sounds
Better for Beginners
Sounds Travel Better Over Open Water
Not a Wide Range in Sounds
It Takes Time to Learn the Proper Technique
Makes Both Quiet and Loud Sounds
You Need to Use Better Control Over Your Breath When You Blow Into It
Cold Weather Can Freeze the Reeds Together; Won’t Operate Right
The amount of maintenance you put into your item will depend on the material. Wooden calls are more traditional, but they also require more care. They are more porous than other materials, so you need to take it apart and let it dry out after every session. This can aggravate some hunters, so they prefer to use other materials.
A good rule to follow is: the harder the material, the longer-lasting the duck call will be – and the easier it will be to take care of it.
Quick Take | Best Duck Calls
Just looking for the top three best duck calls? Here they are:
Review of the Best Duck Calls
All hunters have their favorite duck call, so narrowing down the best was a difficult task. We’ve reviewed the highest-rated products, with positive feedback from hunters, to make your selection process a little easier.
Founded by Louisiana native, Eli Haydel, Haydel’s Game Calls is one of the most popular manufacturers of duck calls in the country today. Since the 1980s, he has released non-wood duck calls known for their durability.
The Haydel’s Game Calls Ha-Yardel-Feets DR-85 Mallard D Reed, also known as the “Deceiver”, is the company’s best-selling model. This plastic offering holds up to rain and humidity, so you can use it worry-free in bad weather. The Deceiver is great for mallard hunters: it makes all of the sounds of a mallard so that they will be attracted to your location.
Although it comes pre-tuned, it has an adjustable wedge so that you can tune it yourself. Many hunters are surprised by the sound of this double-reed call as it sounds much louder than other double-reeds, making it an excellent option for use on open water and over long distances.
Haydel’s Game Calls Ha-Yardel-Feets DR-85 Mallard is one of the best mallard options on the market today. The plastic construction allows for louder calls and it comes apart quickly for your own tuning. You can use the Deceiver to make all of the calls of a mallard, making your hunting trip a success. It is small, so this would be a great option for beginners or children who are learning the basics of duck calls.
Duck Commander Pintail/Widgeon Call
For those without a hunting background, the show Duck Dynasty introduced us to the world of duck-hunting. Phil Robertson has been making calls and whistles since the 1970s. Also a Louisiana native, Robertson created Duck Commander Company in 1973. It has since become a family business that has grown into a franchise with the success of the show.
With the Duck Commander Pintail/Widgeon Call, the company created a multi-faceted duck whistle that is useful on any hunt. You can make calls for six different breeds – the Pintail Drake, the Widgeon Drake, the Teal Drake, the Mallard Drake, the quail, and the dove. No matter what you’re hunting, this whistle will catch their attention.
The original idea behind this product came from a children’s whistle, so it is perfect for introducing the next generation to your favorite pastime. The high-impact plastic is extremely durable and the whistle is easy to blow into – even for the tiniest bodies.
Although this technically isn’t a call, it is a whistle you want to have with you. If you aren’t sure what will be in the area, then this whistle has you covered with six different calls. The plastic is impact and weather-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about extra moisture ruining the sound. There have been some complaints that it is flimsy, but hunters generally like to have this tool in their arsenal.
Best for the Money:
Faulk’s Game Calls WA33 Faulk’s Deluxe Call
With decades in the business, Faulk’s Game Calls is one of the most reputable companies in the duck call game. Around since the Great Depression, Faulk’s is a family business that hand-crafts and hand-tunes all of their duck calls. You would think such a product would empty your wallet, but this item is an example of their excellent attention to detail at a budget-friendly price.
This product is pre-tuned specifically for hunting mallards. The single reed construction with a walnut barrel makes cleaner, raspier sounds that will bring the ducks from miles around. The harder walnut wood is more durable, and it protects the internal construction from the elements. Taking this on your next mallard hunting trip will definitely make it a success.
We were hard-pressed to find something we didn’t like about the Faulk’s Game Calls WA33 Faulk’s Deluxe Duck Call. Several experienced hunters have been using this same model for decades, and they haven’t noticed a change in the quality.
Opposed to the previous products on our list, this one is for serious hunters only. We wouldn’t recommend letting your kids practice on the Faulk’s Deluxe Duck Call. Take your time with this one and learn the different sounds you can make, and you’ll see a difference in your hunting.
Best for Beginners:
Triple Threat Duck Call – Classic Series
A Duck Commander duck call made our list again. The Triple Threat Duck Call – Classic Series is a triple reed option that you can use to hunt mallard ducks. The key to this model’s popularity is that you can reproduce both a young and mature hen’s hail, quack, or feed call.
Regardless of which one you use, the mallards will come flying. The polycarbonate barrel helps the sound travel over longer distances, so the ducks are sure to pick up on it. This model – although in the unusual triple-reed design – is easy to maintain and tune yourself. No matter the weather conditions, the Triple Threat will bring them in.
The barrel protects the mechanisms, letting you use it in any environment. A storm or a drop in temperature doesn’t have to ruin your hunting trip: you can use the Triple Threat any time.
Although triple reed duck calls are pretty rare, the Triple Threat is ideal for beginners and experienced hunters alike. The durable polycarbonate protects the triple reed system much more effectively than wood so that you can use it in any weather conditions. The reeds might stick in extremely cold conditions, but you can avoid this by keeping it warm and close to your body. This model is easy to clean and tune, so it is a perfect option for those starting to learn how to master the art of the duck call.
Best Wood Duck Call:
Duck Commander Wood Duck Call
Mallards are the most common targets of duck hunters, but they will also hunt wood ducks. You can find wood ducks in marshy, swampy areas in the southeastern United States all year long. Most of these products are catered for mallards, but the Duck Commander Wood Duck Call is made specifically for hunting wood ducks. This single reed design has three sound levels so you can hit that perfect pitch to attract wood ducks to your location.
You can use this model late in the season when ducks are naturally wary of people. The plastic casing helps the sound travel over long distances, so you’ll be sure to attract some ducks. We love the realistic sounds this product makes, but we like the convenience of its distribution. You can buy this model in packs with multiple calls, so you and your hunting buddies are fully prepared for your next outing.
The Duck Commander Wood Duck Call naturally attracts wood ducks at any time of the season, with its multiple sound levels mimic the breed. The plastic casing is durable, but this particular model is tiny. If you have large hands, you might drop it or lose it. It does take some time to master the specific calls of the wood duck, so give yourself some practice before taking this on your next hunt. It is hard to blow into, so this product is better for adults.
Best Mallard Duck Call:
Buck Gardner Double Nasty II Polycarbonate Duck Call
In business for over twenty years, Buck Gardner is a world champion in duck calling. He started making them to use in competitions, but they are so well-made that hunters love to use them on the hunt. The Buck Gardner Double Nasty II Polycarbonate Duck Call is our pick for the best mallard call.
All of Buck’s calls are hand-tuned, so you are getting a quality product. This double reed option has Spit-Tech Technology, developed by the company to help the calls work – even if the product is filled with spit from extended use.
The polycarbonate exterior protects the instrument from weather and rain so that you can use it on open water or in any weather condition. Hunters love this model because it makes truly authentic sounds of the mallard duck, including hail calls and feed chuckles.
The Buck Gardner Double Nasty II Polycarbonate Duck Call is one of the best on the market today because of the company’s attention to detail. Creating a quality product, Buck Gardner’s calls are learning tools for beginners as well as accessories for active hunters. The polycarbonate material lets you use this in several different environments, but it doesn’t stop the reeds from freezing in extremely low temperatures. This is inevitable, so keep it warm between uses.
Types of Duck Call Materials
When looking at which duck call to add to your collection, the material makes a big difference. You should always consider two things:
- Will you be doing long-range or short-range duck-hunting?
- What kind of sounds do you want to make – low and dull, or loud and sharp?
There are three types of materials: wood, acrylic, or plastic/polycarbonate. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so which materials you choose is up to your preference. Keep in mind that cheap materials make cheap duck calls. These models freeze up and clog quickly. Always invest in a quality brand, such as Haydel’s, Duck Commander, Buck Gardener, or Faulk’s.
Wood duck calls are a classic. They were the first material used in making this tool, and it is a traditional design that is a go-to for many duck hunters. Since wood is such a porous material, they are more finicky than other materials.
If you are in a humid or rainy area, the moisture can affect the sound of the call. Your spit can also cause the wood to swell. You’ll need to take these wooden products apart to dry them out after each use.
Did you know? Wood is susceptible to temperature, especially in colder climates. Keeping your duck call in your pocket or close to your body will keep it warm in between uses. This will keep the sounds consistent throughout your trip.
Hunters still favor wood duck calls over others, despite the high-maintenance required to keep them operational. These tools are better for close-range hunting since the sounds they produce are generally lower than other options. However, the type of wood matters: softer woods (like cedar or mahogany) will make softer sounds, while harder woods (like walnut or maple) will make louder sounds.
If you can find a duck call with finished wood, this will hold up better to the elements and frequent use. Although wood offerings don’t hold up very well across multiple seasons, many have metal rings on them to keep the wood from splitting as it dries out. This helps them last longer with proper care.
If you are rough on your duck calls during the hunt, then you want a plastic or a polycarbonate duck call. They are incredibly durable and they hold up better than wood or acrylic options. Since plastic is mostly a nonporous material, the sounds are crisp and clear. While the calls sound louder than wood, they aren’t as loud as those from acrylic models.
However, the sounds travel over the water well, drawing the ducks to you. Since plastic and polycarbonate products are so low-maintenance, they are the perfect starter option for new hunters of any age. However, plastic or polycarbonate duck calls aren’t just for starters – seasoned hunters love them, too!
Acrylic duck calls are the most expensive on the market, so many hunters hesitate before purchasing one. They are well worth the price, though. They are the most durable of all duck calls and make the loudest, sharpest sounds. This is definitely a benefit if you will be hunting around bodies of water or if you are in a windy, gusty area.
These products are temperature and weather-resistant, so they are the best to have with you in humid or stormy conditions. Acrylic calls are more often than not hand-tuned, which affects their price. However, they last longer and they have better quality. If you’re looking for a product for the long haul, then invest in an acrylic model.
How to Use a Duck Call
Just like when learning any new instrument, using a duck call takes patience and practice to get the sounds right. While each call is different – depending on the sounds you are aiming for – we’ve included some basic hints on how to get started.
- Hold the duck call in your non-dominant hand. (If you are right-handed, hold it in your left hand – and vice-versa. If you are ambidextrous, use your non-writing hand.)
- Hold the sound barrel – the opposite end of the chamber that you blow into – between your thumb and your index finger. Let the device rest on the soft part of your hand so that you can hold it comfortably.
- Bring it up to your lips.
- Blow into it from your chest, not your mouth.
- Before you take your new duck call on your next hunting trip, you should learn the different calls of the ducks you are hunting. Practice with your instrument – you can look these up on YouTube, or you can ask a seasoned hunter to give you some tips.
Duck hunting is a time-honored tradition that many outdoor enthusiasts enjoy. Having the right tools will make your hunt more successful. Taking the time to learn your new duck call before you go is a fun experience. Whether you go for the wood option or you spring for an acrylic option, the right instrument will have the ducks coming to you!
When to Call and When Not to Call
They say the proliferation of the modern duck call has saved the lives of millions of ducks. There are legions of duck hunters who mistakenly believe they have the tools to bring birds to the decoys no matter what the conditions are. The fact is, on some days even the best duck callers on the flyway can't coax a mallard to the spread.
Knowing when to keep calling and when to put the call in your pocket is the difference between an empty game strap and a tired retriever.
On The "X"
If you've scouted well and ducks are working in, there is simply no reason to call. Good scouting and proper decoy setup will get the job done most of the time. Calling ducks is like being in sales. There comes a point in which the sale is made and continuing to talk will only put the transaction in jeopardy. If you are on the "X" and ducks are dropping in, keep your call in your pocket.
If it's been awhile since weather has moved fresh birds into the area, hunting without calling may be the best bet. Pressured birds that have been in the area have likely been called at several times and are wary of aggressive calling. On most bodies of water, the same points and bays are used by several groups of hunters. After hearing assertive calling over and over from the same areas, ducks become conditioned to avoid those spots. Soft calling or no calling at all creates a different situation that could appear safer to ducks.
Cloudy, Windless Days
These days are a duck hunter's worst nightmare. Waterfowl are cozy and hesitant to get off their roost. When birds are flying, they are often suspicious of decoy spreads and calling. There is no wind to cover up calling mistakes or movement and no sun glare to help camouflage hunters from prying eyes. Your best bet on sunny, cloudy days is to get some motion in the spread with a spinning wing decoy and/or some motion pucks.
These are not hard and fast rules. Let the ducks tell you what they want to hear. When hunting marshes and big backwaters, there will often be ducks roosting around you. Listen to them and try to mimic what they are doing. Obviously, if they are quiet, you won't know they are there.
However, if ducks are actively quacking, it is probably a good idea to do the same. If there are a lot of ducks sneaking in to your spread without making a sound, keeping quiet is probably the way to go. Calling is just one piece of the puzzle. Don't be afraid to experiment with other hunting tools like jerk strings & motion decoys.
Duck Call Common Blunders
Duck calls are more diverse than the ducks they entice. There are cheap ones, expensive ones, mass produced calls, and calls from mom & pop shops. They’re made of plastic, African wood, oak, and air craft grade specialty materials I’ve never heard of. But they all have one thing in common. They can be horribly misused to the detriment of the hunter operating them. There are several calling mistakes that keep birds alive every season.
Here is a look at the most common ones.
Too Much Calling
The biggest calling sin is calling too much. The offenders are far and wide. From novice duck callers to the pros, a lot of duck hunters would be better off with their call in their pocket. A duck call is one of many tools in a duck hunter’s arsenal. Let good scouting, concealment, and effective decoy spreads do their jobs as well. If all those are right, sometimes calling isn’t even necessary. Give the birds a few greeting calls to get their attention, then put the call down, cover your face, and prepare to call the shot. Oftentimes, hunters talk ducks out of checking out a decoy spread… especially heavily pressured ducks.
Forgetting The Finish
Overcalling can burn you, but sometimes birds need to hear a little more before committing to the decoys. If birds continue to circle your spread, you have to get them down or they are going to spot something they don’t like. Some short greeting calls, feeder chatter, and a few soft quacks is all you need to get the job done.
Remember, these ducks are not a half mile out. Keep the volume down and if you are hunting with someone else, work as a team. When you are duckless, practice your finishing sequence so that you sound good together. A lot of hunters will carry multiple calls and have one just for finishing. Some callers swear by a more narrow call for this purpose, since the air is being pushed into a smaller tube. I’ve found that I’m better off controlling the volume with my lungs and using a wide call. Blow a variety of calls and find what’s most comfortable for you.
The Wrong Practice
Every duck hunter worth his salt has spent countless hours blowing on a duck call while heading to work or business meetings. It’s almost a cliché at this point. It’s a great way to utilize your time, but it’s not the best way to practice calling. Get out to a refuge or park and listen to real, live birds. Interact with them. Try to land birds that are flying in.
One of my favorite exercises is trying to keep them from landing. I’ll give them all kinds of goofy sounds to get them fouled up as they try to land. It’s a skill that has come in handy several times. The idea is to get acquainted with what birds like and what they don’t like in a no-pressure situation. If you mess up, it’s no big deal. Your calls will also sound a lot different outside than they do from the cab of your truck. Actually, they will sound just like they do when hunting.
I’ve hunted with guys who literally bring a buffet of food with them to the blind. They love to snack while hunting. Inevitably, they have a mouth full of donut when ducks hit the horizon. The rest of the donut becomes fish food as this guy grabs his call and starts quacking. You think his call might have a few crumbs in it? Even if you don’t bring a concession stand along for the hunt, your call can get dirty. Once the reed and other components of the call get gunked up, the sound and tone of the call can go downhill.
If your call is plastic, soak it overnight in soapy water. The next morning, run water through the call to clear any debris that was loosened up while soaking. It’s also a good idea to run dental floss through the reeds. For a wood call, skip the soak and just run a little warm water through it. Then let it dry out before putting it back in your bag. This is all preventative maintenance. However, every two or three years the call will need new reeds and tuning. High quality call makers offer this service for a reasonable fee.
Calling ducks is one of the most rewarding elements of duck hunting. However, calling is not without it’s setbacks. The best thing a hunter can do is work on calling all year long and don’t be afraid to experiment. Without failure, success is bland.