"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to Call All Ducks

At age 31, I’ve decided to call ducks. Never owned a call. Never had much desire to. But I feel - as an outdoorsman of the highest esteem - something has been missing from my skill set.

Plus, I had a Cabela’s Gift Card to blow.

Calling ducks isn’t a requisite talent for killing waterfowl here in Florida. One is much better off paying attention to set-ups and camouflage. Numerous hunters more experienced than me claim birds just don’t respond with the same gusto as ducks do up north. Perhaps because we are largely mallard-poor in this state.

Or maybe because numerous hunters as experienced as me blow wildly on mallard chuckles and teal whistles at passing ringnecks and hooded mergansers winging it across public lakes and marshes to the point every avian creature in the state is call-shy.

I have attempted to make duck-like noises – on the safety of a patio or around a campfire – with others’ calls. The results and insults were predictable. So this, more than actually caring about quacking a duck to the decoys, is what has lit my fire.

But what calls to buy? For answers I went straight to the Cabelas Bargain Cave website. Lo and behold, they had a solution – a combo package with a Buck Gardner Mallard Magic Call and Buck’s Teal Call for about fifteen dollars. Then I got really crazy and decided to purchase a Primos Classic Wood Duck call.

Out of the package, the best I can do with the Gardner calls resembles my doe bleat. The Primos is higher pitched, but basically the same bleating noise. The Mallard Call claims to “easily produce rolling feeding calls, a full vocabulary of quacks up to, and including, mid-range hail calls, snappy come-back calls, and that awesome nasal whine of a contented hen mallard.”

I’m not familiar with a nasally whine from a hen being all that awesome.

Which brings us to practice time. When I was twelve or thirteen and first learning to call turkey, I had endless time to practice after school. If Mom got upset with the noise in the house, I could just tell her to shut up. I can’t do that with my wife. (kidding – about the first thing; not the second.) And when I went into the woods – any time of the year – I could call to turkey and get feedback from my efforts.

These duck calls are very loud and unwelcome in the homestead. I could travel to the local marsh in the spring and summer and call to mottled ducks. The mosquitoes would appreciate that. Teal are non-existent until September. And the mallards around Lakeland would swim up if I wailed on a coyote howl in the full belief my cargo shorts held a reserve of bread.

Soon, though, I will become Duck Caller Commander Numero Uno, and these three calls will hang from a lanyard bejeweled with bands from the waterfowl that cupped and dipped into the decoys at full ease following my irresistible chorus of clucks and chuckles. Or, my hunting comrades will hang me by said lanyard after a couple mornings.

As always, I welcome advice. Below are a few YouTube videos I will be studying.

Provided the house is empty.

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