The Offseason – Practicing Duck Calls

Submission by Travis Thompson

For many waterfowler’s, the offseason is spent counting down the days until the next hunt.  Sure, some will chase turkeys or tarpon, but, in reality, there will be 200 or so days between duck hunts.

One of the best things to do with this gap is brush up on your waterfowl calls.  I, for one, leave my call lanyard on the rear view mirror of my truck to practice any time I’m driving alone.  The flutters and lilts you will learn in May, June, and July will pay off handsomely on your straps come November, December, and January.

Here, we’ve compiled a menagerie of “how-to” duck calling videos.  Find the species you target most frequently and use the offseason to get dialed in . . .

Blue winged and Greenwinged Teal

Teal are probably the most widespread duck in North America, and, in the author’s opinion, one of the “worst” called . . . Maybe this is an identification problem (some hunters think all ducks will respond to Mallard calls?) or a simple lack of species understanding.

Bluewinged and Greenwinged teal, while they will mix in flocks, have very different calls.  This video from Ducks Unlimited shows off that range effectively . . . Both the whistles and the laughs

Diver Call – General

I’ve used this call, with and without the mute, for a number of years now and it is simple and effective.  In high pressure diver areas, decoy spreads and motion ducks are not simply enough to separate the different hunters anymore.  Our clients consistently kill more divers than anyone else in our watersheds, and a big component is a diver call, used strategically, to draw the birds into our spread.

Many folks will tell you calls aren’t needed for divers – just long lines, and lots of decoys.  This is true – but it sure doesn’t hurt to pull in those small pods just out of range . . . This is the cherry on top that will ice them in . . .

Diver Call – Ringneck specific

This sounds very similar to the Haydel’s diver video, but if you listen closely, there is a slight distinction in the tone.  If you enjoy hunting divers and having massive flocks dump into your decoys, tuning this call in is a very good idea as the season pressure wears on your ducks . . .

Wood Duck Call

There are a number of good wood duck calls on the market, but there are also a few made just to sucker in hunters.  In this video the important distinction is made between a Woodie’s call in flight versus the calls made on the water.  Many calls are designed to replicate the flying call you hear – trust me, this is not what you want to do in the blind . . . Learn the “to-wheet” and zips and you’ll be covered in wall hangers in short order . . .

Whistler Calls – Teal/Wigeon/Pintail

This is the call I use for Pintail exclusively, although I have also used it for teal on occasion.  The flutter is what separates the “men” from the “boys” on this call . . . When hunting pintail, or most species, it’s important not to over call . . . This is a subtle but effective way of locking them into your spread.

Uncle Bob’s Wigeon Blaster

I’m listing this here because it’s a new product to market and I’m blown away by it’s effectiveness.  In the infomercial you hear the sound it produces, as well as see the call at the end – what’s different is that you don’t blow this call, you suck in to produce the wigeon whistle.

This is truly a bald pate’s worst nightmare, and a handy weapon to have hanging on your lanyard if you’re in Wigeon country . . .


Mallard calls make up 85% of all duck calls sold in the United States . . . The runs and chuckles and quacks you see in a calling competition are great, but why not start with the basics:

Mallard Feeding call – I’ve watched this video a million times. As someone who doesn’t live in Mallard country, the feeder call was one of the more elusive sounds to make.  This video simplifies it to a single feed call, then allows you to build it into the feeder chuckle.

If you’ve ever struggled with the feeder call, this is the video to take you home . . .

Single Quack – RNT has a great series on Mallard calling where they go step by step through the various noises a Greenhead makes.  They also make a very nice quality duck call.

We’re posting this video as a building block – in order to move up to the hail call, or even more complex greetings, mastery of the simple “quack” is a must.

Hail Call – Rick Hahne also does a great series on “how-to” duck call.  Here he goes into the hail call, which is THE call you will hear most often out on the water.  This is the “hey, you guys, we’re over here” of all duck calls . . . It is based off the simple “quack” we showed you earlier, and often coupled with the feeding chuckles . . .