Duck calls are essential items in a duck hunter’s bag of tools. But they’re completely useless if you don’t know how to use them. The basic call is a “quack,” and if you learn nothing else, you need to at least master that one, especially if you want to fill your bag each day.
The “how” starts with the product and you need a good, quality duck call. Once you have it in your hands, you need to learn proper lip placement on the call, how to hold the duck call, and how to push air through the call from the bottom of your diaphragm.
A good quack is done in a series, such as a rapid succession of three quacks, which is a greeting call. The first quack in the series is always the longest, followed by a series of shorter and shorter quacks. Once you learn the beginner quack, you can easily start calling a series of them.
How to use a Duck Call
Learning to use a duck call starts with properly holding it. Form an “Ok” symbol with the hand holding the duck call, with the circle of your thumb and index finger gripping the very end of the call. Close your remaining fingers as well.
Proper lip placement is essential as well. You form your lips on the call end of the duck call like you’re drinking from a bottle of water. Your lower lip should form a seal around the bottom of the mouthpiece with your upper lip filling the top half of the opening.
Properly delivering air through the duck call is a matter of pulling it from your diaphragm. It’s how they tell people to sing—from their diaphragm, not their lungs. The diaphragm is the large muscle below your lungs that lifts those mushy sacks every time you take a breath.
To make the “quack” sound, you form words as you blow. Which ones you use are up to you because everyone is different in how they speak. Some people say “vut,” while others say the words, “whit or quit.”
If you want to make feeding sounds (yes, ducks make sounds when they’re fat-facing food), say the words, “dugga” or “ticka.”
Do they Work
Duck call sounds definitely work—especially if you have a good spread of decoys and you’re trying to get their attention with some timely placed “quacks.” The greeting call (three quacks in a row) is a good one for pulling them into your decoys.
However, if you’re still bungling the calls because you haven’t been practicing, the ducks will probably think you’re some weird species of predator and stay well away from you. “Practice makes perfect,” as the saying goes and nothing could be more true here.
Work on your greeting calls and get the “quack” sound down to perfection first, then you can start taking on new calls. The feeding calls and the greeting calls are by far the most common of the bunch.
But, there is also a variety of different cadences and notes that make you sound like a specific breed of duck. A lot of veterans suggest you space out your “quacks” to the rhythm of the Three Blind Mice song.
Most Effective Call to Learn
The four and five-note “quack” greeting call is the most effective call to learn. Why? Because it’s the one that initially gets their attention. Other calls may be important if the ducks are already nearby, but the greeting lets them know that the area is safe and sound and they should come to hang out.
It also gets their attention and will effectively bring down a flock of ducks. In all likelihood, they will land a little ways away, but that’s okay because you will have other calls for that.
Effectively using a duck call is one of the most important skills you can learn on your journey to master waterfowl hunting. Ducks are quite gullible early in the season, so even if you are off a little bit, you may still bring some in.
Later in the season, however, you really need to be on your best game. At this point, the still-living ducks have been fooled way too many times to fall for your feeble “quack.” Hopefully, by that point, you’re quacking like a real duck and a veteran duck hunter.
There are certainly more onerous tasks in this world to learn. If nothing else, your friends, family, or kids will get a healthy laugh watching you learn how to quack, and it’s all in good fun.
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