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Published Mar 28, 2023 9:50 AM
Most folks looking to get into waterfowl hunting share the same initial question: What are the best duck calls for beginners? The answer is an affordable call that is easy to blow but also allows you to develop your skills over time. There’s a wide range of options out there that vary in price, style, and sound.
Personal preference has a big say in call selection, and over the years, I’ve developed my own criteria. Some of these preferences include user-friendliness, the durability of the call, and most importantly, the sound of the call. I rounded up a collection of options as well as some considerations and things to look for when shopping for your first duck call. Here are some of the best duck calls for beginners.
How We Made Our Picks
I’ve hunted ducks for over four decades, and in that time, I’ve learned what makes a solid call. Each of the calls recommended on this list has, at one point or another, been on my lanyard. All of them are solid calls that are relatively easy to learn. This is the criteria novice waterfowl hunters should look for in their first call.
- User Friendliness: Some duck calls are just inherently easier to blow than others. Single reeds can prove a challenge to some, while double reeds can pretty much work straight out of the box. I chose calls that are relatively easy to blow.
- Durability: Theoretically, a duck call should be a lifetime investment. Is the call rugged enough to last season after season?
- Sound Quality: A duck call has to sound like a real live duck. With practice, certainly, but the sound has to be inside that call in order for you to work it out. Does the call sound real?
Best Duck Calls for Beginners: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Bill Saunders’ The Clutch
- Polycarbonate or Cocobolo construction
- Single reed design
- Four color options
- User-friendly single reed that blows like a double
- Single reeds can be trickier to blow than double reeds
Bill Saunders is a champion caller and an even better call-maker. The Clutch is one of my favorites, and I blew it during the 2022/23 duck season here in Washington. There is some skill required to make this single reed sing, but it’s not an impossible challenge. The realistic tone combined with the strong volume makes this a great call to grab the attention of birds at a distance. I like the longer mouthpiece, which makes the call easier to operate, though the Clutch seems a little bit on the small side in my hands.
Best Single Reed: Zink PH-1 (Power Hen)
- Polycarbonate build
- Single reed
- Z-Cut tone channel
- Easy-to-blow single reed
- Modified tone channel eliminates reed stick
I have a PH-1 hanging on my working lanyard 24/7, and I am slowly teaching myself to use this single reed call. It takes a little time and practice, but I think most will be pleased with the call’s range, volume capabilities, and price. The Z-Cut tone channel basically eliminates any reed lock and produces loud realistic quacks. The polycarbonate build makes this a durable call and although it takes some practice, this is one of the easiest single reed calls to learn.
Best Double Reed: Slayer Calls’ Ranger
- Acrylic build
- Double reed design
- Multiple color options
- Widened exhaust
- Slightly extended tone board
- Easy to use
- Excellent service after-the-sale
- Forgiving double reed
- Rugged acrylic
- Aesthetically pleasing
I’ve carried the Ranger double reed call since it hit the streets late in 2022, and by and large, I am impressed. I’m no calling champion when it comes to playing a double reed; however, I don’t think anyone would tell me to stop if they heard me blow it.
Although expensive, the Ranger is a lifetime investment. It’s a good-looking call—mine is Blue Wing Mesh—made of tough acrylic. Most of all, the Ranger sounds good, thanks in part to the over-bored exhaust port and lengthened tone board, both of which work to help prevent lock-up and produce great volume.
Best Budget: Primos Original Wench
- Polycarbonate build
- Double reed design
- Reed relocation system
- Tuning hole in barrel
- Costs less than a box of shotshells
- Easy-to-blow double reed
- Polycarbonate material is durable
Even as I write this, I am looking at my own personal Primos Wench call, and I can’t tell you how many mallard ducks were doped by this small conglomeration of graphite and Cocobolo, brass, and mylar. The $17 price tag is one of the most affordable calls you can buy. The double reed design sounds good and provides a relatively user-friendly starting platform for the beginner. Today’s Wench is a polycarbonate call, so it’s tough and easy to maintain. Speaking of which, for those prone to tear things apart without knowing what they’re doing, the Wench features a patented ‘reed relocation system’ of notches and posts that make it virtually impossible not to reassemble the call correctly. Graphite innards enhance the sound, while the tuning hole allows the user to raise or lower the pitch.
Best Whistle: Buck Gardner’s 6-in-1 Whistle
- Includes instructions for different calls
- Durable materials
- Seven different natural sounds
- Easy to blow
- Wide variety of sounds
- Great volume when needed
- Simple, lightweight, and extremely affordable
I can’t tell you how long my 6-in-1 has been hanging at the end of my working lanyard. It’s a fantastic, simple call with no moving parts and great volume. What do you get for your $7 with the 6-in-1? You get a drake mallard, pintail, widgeon, green-wing teal, wood duck squeal/whine, bobwhite quail, and for you turkey hunters, a red-tailed hawk scream. The included instructions make this a perfect call for beginners to learn on.
Best Lanyard: Rig ‘Em Right Pygmy Rattler Lanyard
- Holds up to three calls
- Made of ultra-strong paracord
- Two loops per call/six total
- Color-matched design
- Simple build
- Strong paracord
- It can be uncomfortable; wear a high collar or hoodie
Headquartered in Newport, North Carolina, Rig ‘Em Right makes well-thought-out waterfowling gear that hunters can afford. I use their stuff because it works, and I have faith in it. The Pygmy Rattler call lanyard is just another example of Rig ‘Em Right’s commitment to providing the waterfowling community with good, affordable stuff. The double droppers ensure those new calls stay safe, secure, and around your neck.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Duck Calls for Beginners
There are a lot of things the novice waterfowler should consider when buying a duck call. It’s quality that you want, but at not too high a price because there’s an awfully good chance this won’t be your last duck call. Think of it like buying a new car, only a lot less expensive. Whether a car or a call, each comes with a variety of options. Some I’d consider necessary, while others are, just as the word implies, optional. Remember these considerations before buying the best duck calls for beginners.
How much money are you willing and/or able to spend on a call? Again, duck calls can range from $20 to over $200, but just because a call sets you back a pair of Benjamins doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
Duck calls are crafted from any number of materials, including:
- Wood: Mellow realistic sound; maintenance and care are required due to the tender nature of wood. Often custom and/or higher-end calls, thus a bit more costly.
- Polycarbonate: Hard plastic material; rugged and durable. Unaffected by weather changes. Little maintenance is involved. Least expensive material and a great choice for beginners.
- Acrylic: Extremely hard plastic-type material that produces sharp, clear, ringing sounds. Individually hand-made; higher end in terms of price and very durable.
Ducks calls come in one of three reed designs—single, double, or triple. Single reeds are said to be the most versatile, but have a steeper learning curve than do the more user-friendly double reeds. I pack both on my lanyard, but prefer the double reed. As for the triple reeds, you don’t hear much of them, and I’d steer clear.
How much time and effort are you willing to invest into learning how to blow that duck call the proper way? To repeat, single reeds are versatile but a bit more challenging to master than double reeds; however, practice is a common denominator with both.
I strongly believe in buying a call, shotgun, ammunition, or any other piece of waterfowl hunting gear from a respected manufacturer with a history of craftsmanship and support after the sale.
Q: What is the easiest duck call to blow?
With some practice, a good double reed duck call would probably get the beginner started down the path the quickest and easiest; however, the best callers practice, practice, and practice some more.
Q: How long does it take to learn to use a duck call?
That really depends on how much time you’re willing to put into learning the art of duck calling. If you blow a call eight times during duck season and don’t touch it for 11 months, it’s going to take a while. Fortunately, there’s an almost endless list of “how-to” aids available today for those wanting to learn the ropes.
Q: Why are acrylic duck calls better?
Not better; just different. A very hard material, acrylic makes for a durable call, with a sharp, clear sound and the ability to produce a ton of volume; however, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either wood or polycarbonate calls.
Q: What is the most popular duck call?
That’s a tough one because every duck hunter, eventually, is going to have his or her favorite call. If I were pressed to answer this question, I’d have to say a moderately priced polycarbonate double reed is the call you’re going to see most often on lanyards afield.
Best Duck Calls for Beginners: Final Thoughts
I said it earlier, but I believe it’s worth mentioning again. Choosing your first duck call is a lot like buying your first vehicle. There’s a lot going on with that decision. Eventually, though, the choice boils down to selecting the call you think works best for your abilities, your soon-to-be calling style, your requirements for the places you hunt, and, certainly, your budget.
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