4 Tips to combat frozen duck call reeds
By M.D. Johnson
It’s happened to the best of us … and at the worst of times: Late season. Cold. Bitterly cold. Miserable cold. We’re working the first good bunch of mallards we’ve seen all morning — Did I mention it’s damn cold? — and in mid-QUACK, the reeds lock up. Oh, they’re not spit-locked — they’re frozen. Frozen together. And then that lump of silent mylar is iced to the tone board. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing … except the sight of those mallards turning on their wingtips and flying back the way they came.
Is there anything we can do to keep this nightmare of the frozen duck call reeds from happening, short of hunting blue-wings and whistling ducks in Florida from start to finish? The good people at Slayer Calls offer up these four solutions to this oh-so-familiar winter ’fowling problem.
1. Keep your duck call warm to avoid frozen reeds
Sometimes it’s best to look for the most obvious answer first, and here it is: If frozen reeds are a problem, keep your call inside your coat.
Me? I make a point of wearing a Browning goose down vest underneath my chest waders when it’s below freezing. In that vest, and in the left-hand side breast pocket, I’ll drop a HotHands handwarmer. When not in use, my calls and everything else on my lanyard — including a short reed, speck/snow call, flute call, three duck calls and a whistle — hang inside my vest, where the “weather” is considerably more pleasant than it is on the outside.
2. Carry a second (or third) call
“But I can’t get my call(s) out fast enough if they’re in my coat,” some will say. Maybe yes; maybe no. Doesn’t take all that long to get a call out and ready if you’re paying attention.
However, if it’s speed you’re concerned with, you can always opt for option two: Carry multiple calls … which most of us ’fowlers do already. In subzero weather, I’ll sometimes pack a call on the outside of my coat — a single reed and a whistle — and keep the rest inside as warm backups, if need be.
3. Wax your duck calls to prevent frozen duck call reeds
Applying some type of “antifreeze” wax to the tone board is a trick I’ve heard of, but not tried myself. Something like chapstick might work. Or bee’s wax or virgin paraffin wax.
Whatever the substance, I’d strongly suggest using an extremely light coat, as any or all of these waxy materials can and will harden and/or gum up in extremely low temperatures. The result being a clogged and frozen duck call.
These substances also have a tendency to attract dirt, weed seeds and any number of “bad for a duck call” materials, which can get between the reed(s) and the tone board, leading to more problems.
But here’s a thought — Anti-Seize food grade lubricant — again, in a LIGHT coating. May be on to something here …
4. Wrap up to thaw out your duck calls
Think about it. You’ve wrapped yourself in layers, trying to stay warm when it’s minus 10. Why not treat your frozen duck call to a similar program? The folks at Call Coozy make a nifty little neoprene wrap, specifically designed for a duck or goose call.
These wraps are meant to not only keep your call warm(er), but to protect it from getting beat up through the normal abuse we ’fowlers bestow upon our gear. At $5 per unit, it’s awfully cheap insurance.
Meet M.D. Johnson
Originally from Ohio, M.D. Johnson, and his wife/business partner, Julia, spent 18 years in Iowa before relocating to her native Washington state in 2015. A full-time freelance outdoor writer since 1992, Johnson, with the photographic assistance of his wife, has authored and illustrated six full-length books, including three on waterfowl hunting. Today, The Johnsons reside in Wahkiakum County, where they both enjoy a 107-day duck season, salmon fishing, and everything the wonderful Pacific Northwest has to offer. Oh, and if you ask, M.D. will tell you he prefers 16 gauge doubles to anything else.
Read more from M.D. on Slayer’s Blog:
- Canadas are waterfowl: Tips for hunting Canada geese
- The well-dressed duck hunter: Clothing tips for staying warm and dry
- How to hide with a blind: 5 waterfowler tips for blending in better
- How to hide on the hunt: 3 common hunting pitfalls and how to fix them