The Fowl Line: A call in the hand …

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When possible, always try a call before buying it. Also, there’s nothing wrong with buying a call just because you like it, but if you’re trying to narrow down your options, go with the call that best suits your hunting style. Photo by John Pollmann

By John Pollmann

Buying a new duck or goose call is a yearly affair for many hunters, and some don’t stop at just one. It can be an expensive project, with the price of custom calls continuing to rise, but it can also be a lot of fun.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a new call this fall.

Don’t Let Price Scare You

This tip works both ways. I’ve blown custom calls that cost $150 or more that weren’t worth the fancy box they came in, and I have more than one “cheap” call that I use regularly because they sound good and help me kill ducks and geese. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” can surely hold true at times when buying a new duck or goose call.

Before you put your money down on a new call, make sure you try it out. Most stores will open up the call cases to let your put some air across the reed, and blowing a call is encouraged at the outdoor hunting expos and festivals that take place in late summer and early fall.

True, it’s not always possible to try out the cheaper calls on sporting-goods store shelves that are packaged in a sealed clam pack, but more often than not that call is a plastic, molded version of a higher-end turned-acrylic call that’s kept behind glass. If you like the more expensive version, chances are you’ll probably like its less expensive cousin, and you’ll save a lot of money, too.

Match the Call to the Hunt

Last fall I had the pleasure to hunt with Outdoor Forum contributor Ben Fujan from a blind overlooking a pond that regularly produces straps of birds, but it is a place that does not attract ducks or geese when not being hunted. In fact, many of the places that Fujan hunts are “traffic” setups, where decoys and calling are used to convince birds to ignore their original plans and stop by to pay a visit. The mondo-style call that Fujan uses is set up exactly for this type of hunting scenario, as it is loud enough to reach birds flying high in the jet stream.

When looking for your next call, think about the style of hunting you do the most.

Do you primarily hunt ducks in the field? If so, a stout little double-reed that makes great feeding chatter would do just nicely.

Do you run traffic for Canada geese more often than not? Then you might want to invest in that acrylic short-reed call that is designed to produce the loud, crisp clucks and honks needed to get the attention of passing birds.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a call just because you like it, but if you’re trying to narrow down your options, go with the call that best suits your hunting style.

Practice, Practice, Practice

While I was in college, my summer jobs revolved around the construction trade, and the last item to go into my lunch pail before heading out for a day of work was my call lanyard. During breaks I’d sit in the cab of the work truck and practice calling to help pass the time, earning a questioning glance from anyone who happened to pass by. The time I invested in practice, however, helped me hone a number of skills that I still use in the hunting blind today.

No matter which call you buy, you will get nothing back on the money you invested in its purchase if you don’t practice.

The versatility found in many of today’s custom calls stays hidden if a hunter doesn’t discover how to adjust his breath, tongue and jaw or better utilize his hands to create back pressure. Any of the calls on your lanyard are only as effective as the amount of time you’re willing to put in to practicing.

And what you might discover is that the old call that you’ve been blowing for years is really suited to match your style of hunting and creates the kinds of sounds that the birds love to hear. A discovery such as this could save you a lot of time paging through the new waterfowl catalogs or browsing the table at the local waterfowl expo and would most certainly save you a lot of money. But that probably wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?

About the Author: Waterfowl columnist John Pollmann is from Dell Rapids, S.D. Follow him on Twitter @JohnPollmann.