How To Use A Duck Call For Beginners

Using a duck call allows for a bit of artistic improvisation in your hunting game.

As a reed-based instrument, duck calls take practice to master but are one of the most effective ways to call waterfowl into your hunting area and increase your chances of a successful hunt. It should be treated like a musical instrument – experience and knowledge of how it is built and how it works will help you get the proper pitch.

By combining these tips with plenty of practice, you’ll have a solid grasp on how to use a duck call for the beginners. And you should have the best duck call for the money to use these tips.

How To Use A Duck Call For The Beginners: Step By Step Guide

  • Know the instrument. There are three main types of duck calls: wood, polycarbonate, and acrylic. While all basically doing the same thing, each takes its own tweak to get the perfect call as they each emit slightly different sounds. For example, wood duck calls make soft, appeasing noises very easily, and are the best way to attract a duck’s attention if you can’t see them or are a beginner. Wood calls work best in optimal weather, especially if you are using decoys. Acrylic calls emit a higher pitched, sharp noise and take more practice to master.

That said, they are much more effective in situations where the sound is disturbed by factors such as the wind, cliffs, or long distances.

They will last for a long time, and are easy to clean, unlike wood calls. Finally, polycarbonate duck calls are like a cross between the two. As far as cleaning, maintenance, and learning curve, they are similar to acrylic calls, but the general noise they emit is closer to that of the wooden duck calls. A great sarcastic take on this can be found here.

  • Hold and blow the right way. A common mistake made by beginning duck hunters is that they whistle into the call instead of blow. The object is not to add any of your own influence into the call, make it as natural as possible, and a whistle throws everything off. Blow thoroughly and forcefully into the chamber and the noise emitted will be much more realistic. Also, be sure you hold the instrument by the sound chamber with pinky and ring fingers around the hole . This is the best advice I can give on how to use a duck call.

  • Know what you’re after. There are different kinds of ducks, and they make different sounds. Pintails have a different sound than wigeons, who make a different noise than mallards and blue or green wingtails. If you’re calling the wrong variety, you’re going to have a bad time. I suggest loading some duck photos onto your phone to easily identify what you’re spotting in the field.
  • Know the calls. Duck language is more complex than the basic ‘quack’ that is associated with the animal, although this is the basic call and the root of all other calls. Master that noise first, then work on the feeding call, which is more like a ‘taca-taca-taca’ following a short introductory quack. Also, try a ‘KAK KAK KAK’ type noise if trying to bring the ducks in from far away. These sounds signal feeding time and may be taken more seriously than just a quack.

An extended quack, kind of like “qqqquuuuaaaacccccckkkkkkKKKKKK!” is the sound of a sorrowful, lonely hen, and can be used to draw other ducks in for comfort. But it shouldn’t last more than a couple seconds at the most. When practicing, make each noise separately. Ducks do not link noised together, there is a noticeable pause between each one. Check out this video for examples.

  • Don’t get in over your head. While the ultimate goal of duck calls is always the same (getting you to bag a duck!), there are different instruments for different ability levels. I always recommend that beginners start with a double reed duck call, as it is easier to control the pitch and sound and produces a more accurate call with minimal effort. You’ll notice that double reeds aren’t as loud as single reed calls and take more breath to power. While this may seem annoying, it will help you master the calls and feel more confident out in the fields. I never even tried a single reed until I had called in several hens with the double, and had built up enough confidence that I was posting up in less secure places that needed a louder call.

When moving to a single reed duck call, you will immediately notice a difference in sound accuracy and projection. Mastering the technique of using single reed duck calls is tough. You have to blow just the right way to get audible noise and it is even more important that you hold the instrument correctly. They are tougher at impulse blows. I recommend getting set up in your location and being quiet for a few minutes before calling (which should always be done anyway) because you may attract attention on your way in. If hunting with another person, I suggest having two different instruments so that it appears there are multiple ducks in the area, I’ve had more success this way than with two people using the same call. That tends to scare ducks off.


As a lifelong duck hunter, I could go on and on about tips, but everything you need to know to get started is right here in this article. The satisfaction of bagging your first duck is unparalleled, it really helps you feel like a sustainable human being that is capable of fending for themselves. Read carefully my guide about how to use duck call. And if you can, let’s consider my article about best shooting sticks 2017.

My last piece of advice is to dress the part- wear your camo and hunting gear, and try to blend in with the environment. I hope this article has helped you if you have tips to add please share them in the comments below, and if you’ve enjoyed reading I’d appreciate a share on your social media accounts. Take care, and good luck out there!

Harvey Specter

"Sometimes hunting is the only thing that makes sense"

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