Crisp sound quality and easy field maintenance.
Easy operating, short-reed design. Seals tight to hold air and improve tones and sounds. Hand-tune for crisp long and short-range performance. Simple to clean, retune, and reassemble.
Reed adjustment instructions are difficult to understand for some. Sound quality is lacking for others.
An easy-to-use design that fits the budget.
Does not require much air to produce sound. Good quality for the price. Fairly realistic. Nice sound that is decently loud. Easy to disassemble and put together again. A good product for the money.
Does not come with an instructional video.
Simple, short-reed option that reproduces realistic Canada sounds.
Great for beginners and easy to master. Requires little backpressure and won't readily stick. Easy to disassemble, clean, and reassemble. Feels high-quality. Turns distant flocks back and right to the decoys.
Plastic feels thin and reed can break easily. Sounds are challenging for some.
Easy to use, from beginners to expert hunters.
Clear, gray, short-reed choice that makes true-to-life, crisp, and raspy sounds. Brings geese down from the sky right to your spread. Features ergonomic finger grooves for tight hold. Shortened barrel works for confidence or as a backup.
Requires tuning out of the box. Produces unrealistic tones.
Has a flexible bell to help you adjust your tone.
Easy to use. Really brings in the geese and helps you bag your limit. Great product for a beginner. Comes with a Realtree camo finish. Allows you to produce the sound of several geese. Lightweight and compact. Sturdy construction.
Has a tendency to be high-pitched for inexperienced users.
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The purpose of a goose call is to attract wild geese to your gaggle of decoys. You want to mimic the look and sound of a serene flock happily feeding in order to attract geese flying overhead. To do that, you need to know what the flock sounds like, when geese make certain sounds, and how to make those sounds. In short, you need a goose call.
Geese are smart, and that makes them challenging prey to hunt. Many hunters willingly accept that challenge and practice using calls to make all the honks, clucks, cackles, and other noises that geese make when flying or feeding. Goose calls didn’t exist until decades after the first duck calls in the nineteenth century. Since that time, manufacturers have devised a few different types of calls that vary in how they’re used and the circumstances in which they work best.
Before you go off on a wild-goose chase, consider what type of goose you'll be hunting and take some time to familiarize yourself with the calls they make.
There are several species of geese, and some, like Canada geese and cackling geese, look similar. To hunt them successfully, and legally, you want to know which species you’re looking at and what calls they make. Here are a few.
Canada goose (Branta canadensis): Look for a black head and neck, white cheeks, and brown body — males and females are identical. These geese weigh 3 to 12 pounds, but the giant Canada goose can weigh more than 20 pounds. This bird’s V-shaped formation is a familiar sight during migrations.
Once endangered, there are now more than five million Canada geese in North America. Over three million geese are hunted each year, but their numbers continue to grow. Not all Canadian geese migrate. Some stay in suburban areas year-round. Depending on where you live, you’ve probably seen them living the good life on golf courses and in parks, hissing at dogs or people who venture too close.
Droppings, crop damage, collisions with aircraft, and unpleasant interactions with humans have prompted some people to take drastic steps to get rid of them. But Canada geese are a protected species, and any efforts to control them require a permit. There are several different methods sanctioned by the government to scare away or control geese populations. There are also ways to change the landscape to make it less attractive to geese. They prefer mowed, watered lawns, so letting native grasses grow tall can discourage their presence.
Cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii): These birds look like small Canada geese. They fly in large flocks, so they respond to the sounds of a large flock on the ground.
Snow goose (Anser caerulescens): These medium-sized geese are sometimes white, sometimes blue. Low population levels stopped the hunting of these geese in the United States in 1916. Hunting resumed in 1975, and the populations have continued to grow ever since. Snow geese travel in enormous flocks that make a lot of noise, which means they aren’t likely to hear a lone hunter’s goose call. Hunters say snow geese are smarter than Canada geese and harder to call. And they aren’t fooled by poor decoys!
Bird calls, like those made by geese, differ from birdsongs. Calls are simpler and shorter, rarely longer than five notes. Calls usually perform a specific function, such as to sound an alarm. Before you select a goose call, take some time to learn the sounds made by wild geese.
Geese are talkative. Canada geese make from 13 to more than 20 sounds (depending on which source you check). An expert caller can mimic them all. Besides the familiar honks, geese make noises that sound like they come from chickens (cackle), dogs (bark), and snakes (hiss). Some goose calls sound like noises made by a child’s toy or a kazoo. There are hunters who say they’ve even caught geese using an old-fashioned squeeze-bulb bicycle horn!
Goose talk is complex. Geese make different sounds depending on the location, time of day, activity, and age of the bird. A Canada goose can make its recognizable honk to scare off an intruder, mark territory, call a mate, or greet other geese. No single call or style will call all geese, but you can master the basic two or three calls for a species and then learn the variations of volume and cadence to suit the circumstances.
Hail: This long-distance call is to attract geese. Accompanied by flagging, this gets the attention of high-flying birds (more about flagging later).
Honk: A short version of the hail call, this relaxed kerrr-hooonk starts low and breaks high. Some experts say to learn this call first.
Cluck: This rapid onk, onk, onk or hut, hut, hut call is for when the birds are closer. It’s the most used call. Some experts say that all you need is a “goosey” cluck.
Moan: Described by some as “seductive,” this low, drawn-out ooooo might attract birds who don’t respond to the cluck. This plus the cluck might be all you need to attract Canada geese.
Murmur: This feeding call is a variation of the moan.
Comeback: Sometimes called a bawl, it’s more like a cry or a drawn-out cluck with a sustained end note used when the birds approach the decoys but veer away.
Hiss: Geese direct this sound at intruders or when threatened.
Grunt: Short, quiet grunts are for short-distance communication, such as with young.
Snore: Female Canada geese make a loud, long snoring call as a greeting.
Growl: Snow geese making growling calls that are challenging for humans to master.
Cackle: This is a rapid, high-pitched, squeaky call made by (you guessed it) cackling geese.
There are four types of goose calls: resonant chamber, flute, tube (not often used anymore), and short-reed. The one you use depends on several factors, including your skill level, the number of different sounds you want to make, season, weather, temperature, and bird behavior.
Hunters might carry more than one type of call, such as one that makes louder, higher sounds and one that’s quieter and lower. Many hunters also carry calls tuned to different sounds for different purposes, such as one for a hail call and one for a comeback call.
How they work: Goose calls have three main components: barrel, insert, and “guts” (consisting of a tone board, mylar reed, and wedge). Blowing into the call pushes the reed against the tone board. Cupping your hands over the call creates back pressure and vibrates the reed, distorting the sound for a realistic honking call. However, expert callers say you should first learn to make the calls without using your hands for back pressure.
Tuning: Tuning the call is important because the barrel length and the taper of the reed affect the sound. If the wedge is closer to the front of the call, it produces higher-pitched sounds; toward the back makes lower tones. A call that’s tuned in the middle produces both high and low tones.
Materials: A nickel-plated brass goose call with a boxwood mouthpiece was the first one patented, in 1885. Today, you can find custom calls made of nylon, glass, Delrin (a thermoplastic polymer), Micarta (a composite of various materials in a thermoplastic resin), cast resin, or metal, but most commercial goose calls are made of wood, polycarbonate, or acrylic.
The material affects the call’s sound and durability. Wood produces a softer, raspier call, but it is affected by moisture. When it shrinks or expands, the sound may change. Acrylic is denser and more durable than polycarbonate and creates a sharper, louder, more natural sound.
Resonant chamber: The first type of goose call, modeled on duck calls in the nineteenth century, these long-reed calls are the easiest to blow by puffing out the cheeks, but the sounds they make are limited to honks, clucks, and deep guttural sounds.
Flute: Introduced in the 1950s and once the dominant call, flutes make a wide range of sounds — an expert caller can make a dozen. Calling requires the use of the caller’s tongue, hand, larynx, and breath, and coordinating all these takes practice. Some hunters think the tones are more realistic than those of other calls, but flutes don’t have the volume of the loudest resonant chamber calls. Flute calls don’t need to be tuned.
Tube: This goose call was introduced in the 1970s. Similar to some turkey calls, it is the simplest of all, made of a short plastic tube, rubber diaphragm, and rubber collar. It doesn’t freeze up in cold weather the way a reed call can. Some hunters consider it the most realistic sounding, and goose-calling championships have been won using it. But the tube call is the most difficult to learn, use, and keep in tune. It’s also quiet, so it isn’t as good for long-range calling or calling in windy conditions.
Short-reed: Developed in the late 1980s, this call was dubbed “short-reed” because it looked like a short flute call. These calls make the widest range of sounds — an expert caller can make more than 20 — so they’re the most used calls today. They’re louder than the other calls, too. Calling with one takes practice, but serious hunters think the short-reed call’s versatility makes it worth the patience required.
Electronic: It’s no surprise that there are battery-powered goose calls, too! There are devices designed to sound like an entire flock of snow geese, complete with two or four speakers, wireless MP3 player, two wireless remotes, an amplifier, and goose calls. They are expensive, and their use is restricted. See fws.gov for more information.
Lanyard: GLORYFIRE Lanyard
Keep all your waterfowl calls within easy reach. This hand-braided paracord lanyard has enough removable drops to hold 11 calls and dog whistles.
Waders: Simms Tributary Waders
Stay dry and warm in the field all day in these multilayered stockingfoot waders with neoprene feet and fleece-lined pockets.
Inexpensive: You can find a wide variety of short-reed, flute, and resonant chamber calls made of wood or polycarbonate for about $19 to $40. You might be able to find a wooden tube call for about $25.
Mid-range: Different call makers have different patented variations, such as shaved and tapered reeds or systems to keep the reed from sticking due to moisture, and these calls can cost up to $60. You’ll also find handcrafted hardwood calls for $75 to $100.
Expensive: These calls are acrylic and cost as much as $130 to $160, although they may also come with spare reeds, an instructional DVD, a hard case, and other extras. Electronic calls are the most expensive, selling for as much as $325, depending on the components.
A. Material, craftsmanship, and customer service. Acrylic is more durable than polycarbonate, with a better sound, many say. If your cheap plastic goose call needs tuning, chances are good that you won’t get a lot of help from the manufacturer. Many factors affect the quality of a goose call: the barrel length and wall thickness affect tone and pitch; the reed boards and stiffness affect how much air it takes to make the call work. All that said, hunters have had success with cheap calls, too! Regardless of the call you get, what really makes the difference is the caller. Practice the few basic calls, and you can probably make any type of goose call work.
A. Canada geese are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They can be legally hunted during hunting seasons and with the proper licenses, but killing them at other times or disturbing nests with eggs requires a special permit.
Goose-hunting seasons range from August to March, but they vary by region (flyway) and species. Check the regulations in the state where you plan to hunt. The website of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has extensive information about hunting waterfowl.
A. There are different types of decoys. Full-body plastic decoys in different poses for use on the ground or in the water are realistic but expensive. Cheaper windsock-style decoys have a solid head and a hollow fabric body that fills with air and moves in the breeze. Inexpensive silhouettes can be staked in the ground and positioned to look like moving birds to a high-flying flock. The type you use will depend on the species you’re hunting and the circumstances. And know that more is not always better when it comes to geese. Fewer high-quality decoys may work better than lots of cheap ones, so get the best you can afford. Snow geese aren’t attracted to plastic decoys, so some hunters use real mounted geese (“stuffers”) as decoys.
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