Sometimes you just need to know it’s time to put the duck call back in the blind bag.
Whether you’re brand new to duck hunting or have been doing it for a while, there are always going to be bad days. Well, it’s either a bad day, or it could be your calling.
Perhaps it is time for you to put down the duck call temporarily until you have a better grasp on how to properly use it. Have a look at this list and make sure you aren’t a culprit.
1. You’re terrible and you know it.
Don’t be ashamed, even some of us “experienced” hunters are still novice callers. Somewhere along the line, we neglected this aspect of duck hunting or we simply were not properly introduced. Not all of us were born with the talent to elegantly woo ducks into our spreads.
For those hunters just beginning, you may consider this aspect of duck hunting especially daunting. Fear not, my fellow duck folk, the simplest way to improve your calling is to just practice.
However, be sure to take the time to learn from someone who really knows how to properly call, otherwise you’ll end up developing some really bad habits in the long run.
2. Too many other callers in the same location.
It’s a fact that with too many chiefs and not enough Indians in the duck blind, a potentially great hunt will likely suffer.
A well-organized duck blind with just the right amount of callers-to-decoy ratio is what you’ll want. Be sure that if you are hunting with a larger party, that only two or three hunters are actually calling at any given time.
Too much calling just isn’t natural, unless you find yourself in the middle of a large population of ducks, interacting with your spread over a large body of water.
Plus, in these instances, you are likely hunting over a ridiculous amount of decoys anyways, thus it may not be a problem to increase calling. For the rest of us weekend warriors, we’re usually only going to hunt over two to three dozen decoys and in a spread that size, having too many callers all with various degrees of proficiency will surely equal less ducks lining your tailgate at the day’s end.
Less is more my friends, less is more. If you find yourself on public land, try not to bunch up with other hunters. If you know where the good spots are and want to stake your claim, then be sure to get there early.
3. Wrong time of day.
Can you effectively hunt ducks during the late morning to early afternoon hours? Of course. This depends largely on your geographical location, the point in the season in which you are hunting, and, as always, weather patterns.
Each of these factors helps play a pivotal role in determining your success, but it doesn’t mean that your calling will. In fact, your calling should probably taper off as the sun continues to rise. Realize that your most effective time to call is when you first get set up and the sun is just barely beginning to peek over the horizon.
Many states allow for shooting time to take place 30 minutes prior to sunrise, so make sure to use your time wisely and take advantage.
4. Late season.
This is the point of the duck season that truly separates the exceptional hunters from the novices. Late season is always a tough time of year for many hunters, as ducks have already picked their mates and formulated select destinations in their race southward. Those locations are now few and far between, and unfortunately this could mean that your once trusty honey hole may not be one any longer.
Your decoys have also begun to lose their luster, which in turn renders your calling just as ineffective. Consider toning it down a notch and try some jump shooting techniques if the body of water you’re hunting on allows for it.
Remember, the ducks have been hunted for nearly three full months come late season, and have just about seen it all by the time they are reaching you, which means that your same bag of tricks used on opening day just won’t get the job done anymore.
Being quiet, patient, and persistent during this time can and will pay off.
5. Not hunting over decoys.
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6. Using a mallard hen call for everything.
The mallard hen call is easily the most popular duck call to have and can be found in almost every hunter’s blind bag.
There is certainly nothing wrong with using a mallard hen call when trying to call in another species, especially when you are hunting over a mixed spread but consider this; would you really use a mallard hen call during the early teal season in September? Probably not.
A good rule of thumb here is to invest in a few different calls, at least one of which being a good drake call of some kind.
7. When the other guy is much better than you.
Set aside your pride for a brief moment and you will more than likely be much more successful. Even if you think you are the world’s greatest duck caller, I guarantee you will inevitably encounter another hunter who is at least just a little bit better at it than you.
Now isn’t the time to prove something to your hunting buddies, so when hunting with a really talented caller, consider remaining humble and reap the benefits of a more bountiful hunt. Perhaps you will even learn a thing or two.
We’ve already covered what happens when there are too many callers in the same space but what about when you are hunting all on your own? Does that mean you should call double the amount since your hunting buddy forgot to set his alarm this morning?
In one word, no. Too much calling is always the tell tale sign of desperation, and even the ducks will pick up on it.
9. Calling just to call.
Bored, are we? Well, if your first reaction to a slow day is to break the silence by pulling out your duck call and blasting it like a kazoo in a one-man band, then think again.
Some days are slow, but they needn’t any unnecessary action out of you. If you encounter a slow day, consider a few things first before you end up calling just to call.
Often times poor scouting results in hunters not setting up on what’s commonly referred to as the “X,” or the area where the ducks want to be. You may think you are in what should be a prime location, but if you failed to scout an area before hand, chances are you aren’t anywhere close to the “X” and calling just to call won’t change this.
Remember, the “X” changes frequently even in the same areas, so be fluid and don’t get too fixed on one location for long.
10. The differences in types of calls.
This is where calling gets truly difficult, and where a lot of hunters can either excel or possibly lose out on some opportunities to bag more ducks.
Knowing the different types of sounds ducks make for any given occasion is a critical element that many duck hunters tend to leave out, discount, or completely overlook. Ducks are doing many different things during different times of the day or night. Feeding calls are certainly a great way to attract ducks but so are calls that make ducks feel safe. A good strategy is to combine them and constantly mix it up.
Just as in many other forms of hunting, there is no end-all, be-all to this sport, and strategies such as calling are only one aspect of it. Knowing the area you are hunting, paying close attention to where ducks are and want to be, weather patterns, and proper scouting will all help play an integral role in determining your success.
Having said this, being aware of your strengths and weaknesses in terms of calling, while exercising some restraint on how and when you use your calls, will enhance your time in the field and perhaps make a profound difference the next time you are in the blind.