How A Duck Call Works
Duck calls work similarly to a clarinet; the person using them blows air through a mouthpiece, and that air makes a thin piece of material called a reed begin to vibrate. The vibration of the reed creates the desired sound. In the case of a duck call, that sound mimics a real duck. Duck hunters use these to attract their prey. Each duck call, no matter the model, will have a tone board, a barrel, an insert, a wedge and the aforementioned reed. One can think of the barrel like the main body of a whistle because it's the area through which wind blows. The insert is just a small piece of material that holds the tone board, which then holds the reed. The insert is held in place by a wedge.
While there are around eight main duck calls that most hunters should know, there are nearly countless sounds the animal can make, so there are several varieties of the tool. The length of the reed directly affects the call's pitch because it determines how far the vibration has to move. A longer reed creates a lower sound, and a shorter reed creates a higher one. The thickness of the reed affects the volume of the sound. Thicker reeds produce more volume, and thin ones create a smaller sound.
Thicker barrels tend to create a lower, warmer sound because the reed's vibrations cannot escape as easily as they do in a thin barrel. Reversely, thin barrels will result in high-pitched calls. Some duck calls contain two reeds and can produce far more complex sounds. The user also plays a large role in the type of duck sound produced. Experienced duck hunters know just where to cup the tool, how hard to blow, and a number of other tricks that can perfectly manipulate the resulting sound.
The History Of Duck Calls
Hunters have been using duck sounds to attract their prey since the late 1600s. Originally, hunters would use actual ducks to attract even more fowl. They would trap a group of ducks in one place, and the animals' calls would lure in more prey. The first mechanical duck call didn't come about until the 1850s. A man named Elam Fisher patented the first duck call in 1870.
In the late 1880s, a company called P.S. Olt sold duck calls in mail order catalogs for between twenty cents and two dollars a piece. Olt became well known for their hard rubber duck calls that were not only water resistant but also allowed the user to adjust the tone of the tool. Before these rubber varieties, most manufacturers used walnut, cedar or rosewood which, while elegant in appearance, would quickly become warped from any moisture. Today plastic and acrylic are popular materials because they have properties that make them ideal for hunting, but some duck callers still prefer the classic look of a wooden model.
Throughout the early 1900s, more manufacturers and individuals started improving the duck call. In the 1920s, a man named Charles Ditto developed the Eureka model that had a brass reed, and by the 1930s, father and son duo Clarence and Dudley Faulk made some of the first plastic varieties. The Faulks produced their product at just the right time, because in 1935, the United States banned the use of live ducks to attract prey and artificial duck calls became increasingly popular.
Tips For Duck Hunters
Camouflage-style clothing is essential for any duck hunter to conceal their presence from their prey, but people can go one step further by using real vegetation. Whether hunting in a boat, or on the ground, one can string up some rope around them and cover it with leaves and bundles of shrubbery. Timing is important, too. Migrating flocks tend to stop for a break around late morning, so hunters can benefit by waiting in the blind (this is where a hunter hides while they wait for their prey) after most people have left.
It's important that one regularly cleans their duck call, too, since any dirt or debris can affect the sound it produces. To clean a duck call, one can simply remove the stopper from the barrel and soak both of these in a bit of water and soap for a half an hour. Any remaining particles can be removed with dental floss. Hunters should also know how to best use a decoy. If a hunter is working in an open area where fowl can easily get a good look at their decoy, they should skip using one altogether.
Duck hunters should always know the direction of the wind, as there are techniques they can take to improve their odds of hunting in an unfavorable wind. If they stand with their weapons pointing in the same direction that the wind is moving, this can put them at a disadvantage. This positioning means that they're shooting ducks that are already moving in the same direction as the wind. If their prey becomes aware of them, the wind will help them fly away even faster. Hunters should position themselves such that ducks would have to fly against the wind to escape since this will slow them down.