How to Use a Duck Call Effectively

If you are planning to engage yourself in duck hunting, one of the very useful equipment that you should have is a duck call. A duck call is a tool which is like a traditional whistle but is used to imitate the sound of a duck. Your goal when you are using a duck call is to make the sound as realistic as possible in order to lure your game. If you are serious in excelling in duck hunting, having good duck calls with you and being able to use them the right way is a must. As helpful and effective as it is, using a duck call may be a bit tricky. Also, you will need to study, practice, and master this skill if you want to get a good result. But, don’t worry, I have something here to help you with your learning. In this article, I have written six easy steps on how to use a duck call. But before we proceed to that, let us first learn a few things about duck calls.


Duck Call Varieties

Single Reed

How to Use a Duck Call

Single reed - Photo credit:

As the name suggests, a single reed duck call has only one reed. A reed is a small, slender, flexible piece of metal, plastic, wood, or cane which is connected at the mouth of a wind instrument and vibrates when an air current is introduced, which in turn, creates a sound. A single reed duck call produces louder sounds compared to double reed duck calls, thus they will be a good pick if you happen to be hunting in a wide, open place where the wind is being loud and the ducks are flying high. Also, compared to double reed, single reeds produce more range of volumes. However, single reeds are hard to master.

Double Reed

As you can probably guess, double reeds have two reeds. Double reed duck calls require more air to blow and if you have found the perfect placement, you will be able to create a sound that is very realistic, thus, they say that they are “more forgiving” when it comes to making a good sound. Double reeds are good if the ducks are in a closer range and you want to bring them into a shooting proximity.

Double reed

Double reed - Photo credit:

Duck Call Materials

Before learning how to use a duck call, it is important that you know what types of materials duck calls can be made of and how these affect the sounds they make.


Wood is a traditional material used in a duck call. Compared to other materials, they produce softer and mellower sounds. The sound of a wood duck call differs on the type of wood it is made of – different wood species create different tones. A hardwood, for example creates a loud sound which is good for wide open spaces while a softer, less dense wood produces lower volume. The good thing about a wood duck call is that it resonates better than the acrylic duck call and thus, produces a richer sound, however, since wood absorbs moisture over time, the sound it makes changes.


Wood - Photo credit:


Acrylic duck calls are very dense and produce crisp, loud sounds, however, they can also be versatile. The good thing about an acrylic duck call is that it does not absorb moisture so you don’t have to worry that it will change its sound over time. It does not also require too much maintenance unlike the wood duck call which you need to disassemble and dry every time you use it. To add to that, it is also durable and is not affected by temperature fluctuations.


Acrylic - Photo credit:


Polycarbonate duck calls produce sounds which lie between the softness of the wood and the sharpness of the acrylic. It maintains a consistent, tight sound, which is loud and bright due to its dense material. It is also more durable compared to wood, however, it can’t make the exceptional sound a wood, or even an acrylic, can make.


Polycarbonate - Photo credit:

The Duck Language

How to Use a Duck Call

Step 1. Familiarize yourself with the duck sound

Familiarize yourself with the duck sound

Familiarize yourself with the duck sound - Photo credit:

The most essential thing if you want to copy the sound of something is to know what it sounds like. If you really want to master how to use a duck call, you should familiarize yourself on how a duck should sound like so that you will have an idea if the sound you are making resembles a realistic one. The first thing you can do is learn the basic duck sounds. You may search the internet for audios and videos or much better, you may go to some hunting spots to listen to them and study them in their natural habitat. Listen to them again and again until you become very familiar to them.

Step 2. Find a good grip

Once you are done familiarizing yourself with duck sounds, you can now start with your duck call. The first thing you need to do is to find out which grip works better for you and you are more comfortable with. There are two ways on how you can grip a duck call. The first one is by holding the duck call by the sound chamber and then curving and wrapping your ring and pinky finger around the hole. This is the more common one. The other one involves holding the duck call with both hands wherein you hold it with your one hand like you are holding a cigar and then use the palm of your other hand to control the sound.

Find a good grip

Find a good grip - Photo credit:

Step 3. Blow from your diaphragm

Blow from your diaphragm

Blow from your diaphragm - Photo credit:

Blowing a duck call is a bit tricky. The key here is to remember not to “whistle” but to “blow” on it. You should not use your lips, instead, you should use your diaphragm to blow the air into your duck call. Use your diaphragm to force air up and into the duck call to create an accurate sound. If you find it confusing to differentiate between whistling and blowing with your diaphragm, try imitating a cough. The muscle that moves when you cough is the muscle that you should use while blowing on your duck call.

Step 4. Practice cutting the air off

Practice cutting the air off

Practice cutting the air off - Photo credit:

Duck sounds are short and repetitive so it is important that you pay attention to this step to avoid making longer sounds, or else, you may fail in calling a duck’s attention. The sound must be sweet, short, and staccato; and in order to do this, you should practice drawing the air up from your diaphragm and controlling it with your throat and mouth. When doing this, your lips should only be slightly opened.

Step 5. Master the right placement

Master the right placement

Master the right placement - Photo credit:

The right placement when using your duck call is in between your upper and lower teeth. This enables you to make a full duck sound, that is, including every part of the word. If you want to know if you are doing the sound right, take note that you should be making a clear, audible, full duck sound which is sharp, sweet, and uniform. Also, remember that the sound must be short and separate so don’t make the mistake of running your notes together. Todo this, keep a consistent pressure of air coming from your diaphragm and then move your tongue to the roof of your mouth and then down. In order for you to copy that unique scattering sound made at the end of the quack, move your fingers which are near the hole after every separate sound.

Step 6. Learn and practice the duck language

Learn and practice the duck language

Learn and practice the duck language - Photo credit:

A duck does not create only one uniform sound and then that’s it. There are different kinds of sounds a duck makes depending on the situation they are in. If you want to lure a duck, you should know what sound to make and not just blurt out any random duck sound, or else, you may just not get any response, or worse, scare them away. Also, it is important that you know when to call and that you only call sparingly. I recommend that you first study and master the basic calls and then move in to the other rare calls. Examples of basic duck calls are the basic quack, the greeting call, the feed call, the hail call, the comeback call, the lonesome hen, the pleading call, and the whistling. I won’t be discussing how each of these sounds like because I think you would understand and get the sounds better if you listen to them. You can look for audios of these in the internet.


Duck hunting is both enjoyable and thrilling but it will never be easy without a duck call. If you are serious in being an expert in duck hunting, one of the skill that you should master is how to use a duck call. If you are a beginner in this, you should first learn a lot of things before you can really start with the actual duck calling. You should learn the types of duck calls and the materials used in duck calls and how they differ and sound so that you can pick what you think is best for you. You should also familiarize yourself with the duck sound and duck language and when to use them. It may look like it requires a lot of effort and hard work coupled with a lot of practice but being able to master a duck call will be really rewarding and useful for a duck hunter like you. I hope this article helps you in taking your first steps to mastering the use of a duck call.

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More information about How To Train Your Dog To Hunt read here!

Sheldon Martin

Sheldon Martin is the founder of Captain Hunter. is a site dedicated to the sport of hunting. We have a deep respect for nature and for the environment, and we therefore take the sport of hunting very seriously. Never think that you are alone in the woods again. Our goal is to share what we know with who needs it most.

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