There’s a special feeling hunters get when they succeed in calling a mob from on high. Anticipation builds as they respond and wheel around, showing interest in the decoy spread where the calls are coming from. Calling is an art that marries perfectly with a hunter’s skill to create a perfect target but how do you get started?
John Byers makes the popular Poddy Bay Australian Duck Calls and he offers some simple advice on producing the basic quack call.
“The basics of success with duck hunting is first to be where the ducks want to be, the second thing you need is good concealment, the third is a good spread of decoys and the fourth is a good quality duck call,” he said.
“Preferably it will be an Australian call, which is set up to call Australian duck species; there are plenty of good ones around.”
John said beginners should practice in front of a mirror initially and raise the call to their lips as they would a bottle of soft drink (or a beer) by placing it on the bottom lip and rolling it up to the top lip.
John’s advice is to use the word ‘VERT’ as the starting point for making the right sound.
“A common mistake for newbies is blowing from their cheeks; they fill their mouth with air and puff out their cheeks and blow,” he said.
“The air should originate from the diaphragm and be pushed out through your mouth, over your tongue.”
Another tip for beginners is to turn the call around and blow through the exhaust.
“Blowing through the opposite end makes it easier to get the ‘vert, vert’ sound but also to feel the vibration of your lips so you get that raspy sound.
“It is a good way to feel it on your lips so you know you are shaping the right sound.”
Once you are making the right sound, it is time to add some flare to the basic quack.
“If you listen to a duck, it starts off at a low tone and then finishes with a kick up or inflection at the end and you can assist that happening by choking your hand at the start of the call and opening the hand at the end,” John said.
The hand should be curled around the opening and not covering it.
“That creates a high pitch at the end and with a little practice you will quickly master the basic quack call.”
Now you are ready to experiment in the field, John has some advice on calling etiquette.
“There is a term ‘cold calling’, which basically means someone is calling incessantly, which is OK if you are away by yourself, but if you have other hunters around, the best practice is to only call when you are trying to entice birds in,” he said.
“Cold calling can work but it is a bit like singing in the shower, it might not be pleasant for everybody else.”
Competition between calls for the same ducks is all part of the hunting game.
“It is part of the sport: if you can use your call to pull birds off a mate who is 100 m away from you, that is fair game in my view.”
“Especially if you are using a Poddy Bay duck call and he isn’t,” he chuckles.
John recommends any hunter who is not currently using calling as part of their repertoire should try it. Calling adds another dynamic to duck hunting and a sense of satisfaction you do not get from taking passing birds.
“It is a sense of achievement, just as it is when your decoy spread works or the dog you have spent many hours training does a difficult retrieve,” he said.
“When you have a bird heading for parts unknown and you lay into it with a call and it turns on its head and flares into your decoys, it is a great sense of satisfaction and the actual shooting of the bird pales into insignificance; the satisfaction is the craft you have applied to the task.”
John lives and breathes duck hunting: he collects calls, decoys and other paraphernalia and revels in the art form. For him, wading out into a swamp and standing by a tree waiting for birds to fly by is not truly hunting.
“It is more duck shooting and they are a diminishing breed. The true duck hunters are the ones who put together the whole package: scouting, observing and then setting up to attract the birds with decoys and calls,” he said.
The combination ensures birds are brought into the optimal kill zone, reducing wounding, and making retrieval of shot birds easier.
“It is our responsibility to train newcomers so they become duck hunters,” John said.
Learn more about his Australian made duck calls at www.poddybay.com