Best Duck Calls

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

13 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
212 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best duck calls

Last Updated October 2019

There’s nothing quite like rising in the early morning hours before sunrise, bundling up in layers of clothing, and heading out to the duck blind. The air is crisp, and life seems to play out as it should. You’ve painted your face to blend into the brush, you’re wearing a pair of waders so you can easily retrieve the ducks, and now all that’s left is to draw them into the area.

Every duck hunter uses different strategies, albeit with the same tools: duck calls. Hunters can choose from single- or double-reed calls, which affects the versatility of the calls. They can select among wood, acrylic, or polycarbonate calls, each with their own pros and cons.

Hunters must also consider where and how they will be hunting ducks in order to purchase the best type of call to suit their needs. For those reasons, we’ve created a buying guide to aid you in hunting down the duck call that will best attract those flapping flocks of fowl.

Whether you’re a beginning duck hunter or a novice, bring several different duck calls on your hunt in case your hunting location or conditions change.

Key considerations

Single reeds vs. double reeds

Every duck call either has a single reed or a double reed inside of it. The vibrating reeds produce the sound of the duck call when the hunter blows into it.

A single-reed duck call requires more voice but less air than a double-reed call. Hunters must add some voice from their throats to produce a realistic duck sound. But once the duck sound is produced, little air is required to operate the call. There’s a larger range of sounds available with a single-reed call.

A double-reed duck call produces a raspy sound, created from the two reeds rubbing on each other. Double-reed calls are easier to master but more difficult to blow than single-reed calls. They also have a shorter audible range than single-reed calls.

Volume

Depending on where the hunter is located, different duck calls with different volumes may be required. In a big river or open lake, the call needs to be able to travel a long distance. In enclosed areas like flooded timber, wooded ponds, and beaver ponds, the call doesn’t need to travel as far due to its echo. When used over a longer distance, the call must be a higher pitch and a greater volume. For close environments, the call should be lower in pitch and softer in volume.

Materials

  • Wood: When hunters imagine a classic duck call, it’s most likely made from wood. Historically, duck calls have been considered basic woodwind instruments. The wood produces a softer and mellower call than acrylic, but the wood is more difficult to maintain. Because it’s porous, a wooden duck call absorbs moisture and can swell. After each hunt, a wooden duck call must be dismantled so the interior parts can dry. Close-up duck hunters often prefer wooden calls.

  • Polycarbonate: Duck calls made from polycarbonate plastic make sounds that fall somewhere between the softness of wood calls and the sharpness of acrylic calls. They are the least-expensive type of duck calls and the most durable because they are made from a mold rather than assembled from separate pieces.

  • Acrylic: The high-density material of acrylic duck calls produces sharper and louder calls than wood or polycarbonate. They are easy to maintain because acrylic material doesn’t absorb water. Open-water calls are usually acrylic.

Once ducks are in your line of sight, they are either in the entry zone, the working zone, or the exit zone. Hunters should target ducks in the entry zone, and try to hold the duck’s attention to draw it in.

Staff
BestReviews

Duck calls by type

  • Open water: This type of duck call is recommended for hunters located in large, open areas with windy conditions. Open-water calls need to achieve a high volume to draw in migrating ducks from across a wide area.

  • Timber: This type of duck call is recommended for hunters located in closed-in, forested areas with calm weather. Timber duck calls are quieter than alternative types of calls.

  • Cut-down: This type of duck call is recommended for hunters who are looking for loud distinctive sounds. The name “cut-down” comes from hunters who historically trimmed reeds to produce greater volume and a wider range of pitches. Cut-down calls are gaining in popularity.

Calling techniques

  • Quack: The “quack” is a short, sharp note. It can be sprinkled throughout your duck-calling repertoire to mimic short bursts of quacking. Hunters should voice the “quack” noise with a hard punctuated “K” into the call.

  • Feed call: The “feed” is a sequence of rapid short notes. The notes vary in pitch and are supposed to mimic the sounds of ducks eating.

  • Comeback or hail call: The “comeback” or “hail” is the loudest and longest of calls. It’s drawn out and amplified in order to attract ducks from far away.

Duck call prices

Inexpensive: Low-end duck calls range in price from $5 to $15. They will most likely be manufactured from polycarbonate, which means they are mass produced. These calls work well for beginners learning basic techniques. More experienced hunters often move up to higher-quality duck calls.

Mid-range: Intermediate-price duck calls range from $20 to $50. They can be wooden or acrylic. These calls will be assembled of multiple pieces, rather than being a single piece of molded plastic. They will be able to produce varying pitches and volumes, depending on the material.

Expensive: High-end duck calls can cost from $50 to $100. These duck calls can be fine-tuned or custom-tuned, and they will most likely be acrylic. The reeds may be hand-trimmed, and the call itself, if well maintained, should last for years.

EXPERT TIP

Before disassembling a duck call for cleaning, mark the original placement of each piece with permanent ink. That way, you will know for sure how to reassemble the piece correctly.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you plan on duck hunting when it’s below freezing outside, choose a single-reed duck call. The two reeds in double-reed duck calls tend to stick together when exposed to frigid temperatures.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Practice duck-calling techniques at home before heading out to the hunt. Record yourself, and play it back to improve your technique.

  • Listen to recordings or videos of ducks in their natural habitats to learn the nuances of their sounds.

  • Couple your duck calling with strategically placed duck decoys to increase your chances of attracting ducks.

  • Be careful when blowing into the duck call that you’re not producing a whistling noise. The whistling noise will disrupt your call and make it less effective.

Other products we considered

There’s a call for them all, both ducks and hunters. We’ve chosen our favorite five, but there are plenty more worth a mention. The Uncle Si Single Reed Duck Call is a nice single-reed polycarbonate call that sports a high raspy tone. It’s an affordable option for a beginner. We also like the Duck Commander Teal Hen Duck Call, a more specialized call. The teal hen call is designed specifically to attract teal hens, so that’s both a positive and a negative. The call has a faster cadence and higher pitch than a mallard call, which may also work for drawing in wary late-season ducks.

A common misconception hunters have when using duck calls is that they are trying to call in just one duck. Rather, the duck call should sound like a flock of ducks with varying pitches.

FAQ

Q. Will I ever need to replace the reeds in my duck call?

A. There’s a chance, but it’s unlikely. The reeds will only need to be replaced, or the duck call retired, if they begin to delaminate. Replacement reeds can be ordered online through the duck call manufacturer.

Q. What happens if I drop my duck call in the water?
A. Nothing, unless the duck call is made from wood. Polycarbonate and acrylic will simply need to dry out before using. But wooden calls will need to be dismantled and dried completely before reassembling. Wood is porous and readily absorbs water, while the other materials do not.

Q. Does a higher price equal better quality?

A. Not necessarily. A beginning duck hunter can do just as well with a $10 call or a $50 call. But more advanced hunters may purchase a pricier call because of better-quality material or ability to fine-tune the call to suit specific hunting needs.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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