A Wildfowlers Guide to Duck calls

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If you are looking for your first Duck Call, you are looking to change calls or you want an additional call to give you more flexibility then, hopefully, this brief overview may help you. This is not written as a comprehensive guide but it is a summary of our experience and a comparison of the calls we offer here at Paddlesdown. We have tested almost all of our calls and we use many of them on the marsh, we have not simply published here the instructions that are ptinted on the back of the packet! These calls can be viewed individually in the Paddlesdown eBay Shop

Duck Calls come in a variety of materials and styles and they consequently produce different tones and they require a different style of use, a call that suits me will not necessarily suit the next wildfowler who picks it up. Remember also that many wildfowlers will carry more than one call, you often find a call will clog up and jam at the most inconvenient time or you may simply want to alternate calls to offer up a different tone or volume.

In the Paddlesdown range there are two types of Mallard Call, Single Reed and Double Reed and these are then broken down into Moulded Plastic Duck Calls, Wooden Duck Calls and Acrylic Duck Calls, these materials and reed types do make a difference to the tone, volume, ease of calling and the flexibility of the call. In addition to the Mallard Calls we also have Duck Whistles that are used on Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard.

First let’s look at the materials the calls are made of and in doing so we will start with, what many regard as, the "traditional" wooden call. The wooden calls do tend to give a rich and more rounded tone and they usually have less volume as some of the volume is absorbed into the call. Wooden calls are, in practice, a little more forgiving than the plastic or acrylic calls and often well suited to the novice caller. Generally a wooden call, particularly those made of less dense woods, are less suitable for use over big open waters or windy conditions as the pitch is lower and the volume is less than say a Plastic or Acrylic Call. Wooden Calls do score well when shooting in calm conditions, in woodland and when birds are working close in such as coming into a flight pond.

As I write this feature Paddlesdown have two wooden calls in stock, The Sonderman 66 Mallard Call and the Lohman 103 Regular Mallard Call, click on the link for each of these calls and it will give you a full review. I would say that you should not be fooled by the low price of the Lohman 103 Duck Call it is a very user friendly call, it produces a very good soft tone with little effort and it is very reliable. You could use this call on its own or in conjunction with a Plastic or Acrylic Call to give two different tones and the impression of more than one duck working your area. My son has used Lohman 103 Duck call since he was 8 years old and it suits him very well and he is able to produce an excellent call with little effort

Plastic Calls are usually now "all plastic" in so much as the barrel, the mouthpiece and all the components are plastic. An all plastic call has an advantage over wood because the material will not absorb water and so the pitch will not change, generally a plastic call is not likely to jam just because it is wet. Plastic is denser than wood and less sound is absorbed by the material and so the pitch produced is higher and the tone is a little sharper. You can reduce the pitch and also produce a softer tone by partially smothering the call with your hand and this is something to practice as it is a useful tool for manipulating the call and creating variety. Plastic calls are generally better than wooden calls on big open waters such as the foreshore and in windy conditions due to the higher pitch but they may be a little to aggressive in calm weather, sheltered waters, woodland and when working birds close in. I have found that plastic calls are not as durable as wooden calls and I have a habit of cracking my plastic calls every couple of years and need to replace them!

Paddlesdown have a couple of all Plastic Mallard Calls in stock, the Haydel’s DR85 Double Reed Mallard Call and the Flambeau Single Reed Mallard. I am not going to lie to you so I have to admit that I have never tried the Flambeau Call therefore I can’t give you an opinion but would welcome feedback from any customer who has tried one? The Haydel’s DR85 is a different proposition as I have used one of these for about 10 years and I can recommend it 100%. The Haydel’s DR85 gives excellent volume, good tone and it is totally reliable. The down side is it takes a little practice because it works best when you grunt into it rather than just blow, my little lad certainly struggled with this call so it will not suit everyone.

Moulded and turned Acrylic Duck calls are the densest of our calls and they produce the highest pitch. The high volume produced by these calls makes them highly suitable for use on vast open expanses and in particular on the foreshore. Acrylic calls are also good for attracting birds at long distance before changing over to a plastic or wooden call for close in work. Like plastic Duck calls the Acrylic Calls is less affected by moisture and so the tone is more consistent.

At them moment Paddlesdownhave a couple of Acrylic Calls in stock, the Lohman Gold Mallard Call and the Big River Calls Duck Buster – you can read a full review of these calls by clicking on the link. I have tested both of these calls and I was very surprised at just how good they are and what amazing value they represent – previously Acrylic Calls were almost prohibitively expensive but these two calls have smashed that barrier! I have found that both of these calls are very simple to blow, the volume is exceptional and the tone is very good, I had expected these calls to be a little harsh but that does not appear to be the case. I liked the Duck Buster so much that I will be adding this call to my lanyard for the 2008/09 season.

Having considered the material the Mallard call is made from the next thing we will look at are the reeds. As I mentioned at the start of this features we get Mallard Calls with Double Reeds and Single Reeds, these reeds are usually made of a "high tech" plastic.

Double Reed Mallard Calls are usually the best option for Novice callers as they are more forgiving than the single reed call. The Double reed has to be blown harder than the single reed call to produce a note and the tonal range at the top end is not as extensive. However the Double Reed scores well because it is far less prone to sticking if overblown and to get a decent note it is not necessary to "grunt" into the call as you have to with the single reed (you can just blow the Double Reed).

Our most popular Double Reed Mallard Call is the Haydel’s DR85, this is the call I have used for 10 years and recommend. As I mentioned earlier in this article I have now also added the Double Reed Acrylic Big Rivers Duck Buster to my lanyard and I feel this will be a real "killing call".

Single Reed Calls require less air pressure to get them to work and they have a wider tonal range which offers greater versatility. The downside is they do tend to stick if overblown and no sound is produced! Personally I prefer Double Reed Calls but maybe that is because I’m not a good caller! That said I have recently tried and tested the Lohman Gold Series Mallard Call and if a Single Reed Call is your preferred choice I would recommend this, it is very easy to blow, the tone is excellent and I have not managed to get it to stick.

Last up we have the Duck Whistle and we have a couple in our range, the Haydel’s MP90 and the Flambeau Duck Whistle. These calls work very well on Pintail, Teal and Wigeon with a little practice and they are very straightforward to use. Often neglected is the Drake Mallard purr which is produced using either of these whistles and should always be used in conjunction with one of the Hen Mallard Calls we have discussed above.

Our range of calls can be viewed in the Paddlesdown ebay Shop

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