How to call ducks: Call the Wild’s Matt Carey shares his duck calling tips for beginners
By M.D. Johnson
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of duck calling from a lot of duck callers.
Some, like Field Hudnall, Phil Robertson and the late Tim Grounds — man, I miss Tim … he was always a hoot to talk with — were simply phenomenal. Each had his own style, but they all had one thing in common: they knew how to call ducks. They knew what sounds to make, when to call and, most importantly, when NOT to call. Silence, it’s often said, is golden; and this old sage absolutely holds true in the duck hunter’s world.
But just as I’ve heard some fantastic duck callers, I’ve also been subjected to some pretty, well … poor calling, too. This one guy at a local Washington refuge walked into his assigned blind right after lunch and then proceeded to assault our hearing with FOUR AND A HALF HOURS of non-stop noise.
The show tunes, I must admit, were entertaining. For a while. The random callers; the screeching high-ballers; and my favorite, the machine-gun-style feed chucklers — why do they do it? Because they learned how to call ducks on YouTube. Ugh!
These short tales beg the question, How do you learn to call ducks the right way? Well, thanks to Slayer Calls’, Matt Carey, and the company’s newly-released subscription-based instructional series, “Call the Wild,” even beginners can have a leg up on the entire process.
How to call ducks: Some non-YouTube tips
“My best advice if you’re just getting started duck calling is to practice a ton,” said Carey, without hesitation.
“I always encourage people to take a call with them in the car. That’s a good ‘private time,’ and you can use that to build your confidence. I always have a call in the console of my truck. It’s fun for me, practicing and developing new skills.”
Carey advises new callers to move slowly through the learning process. Go step by step, building on one skill and growing that level of confidence before moving onto the next. “In our Call the Wild series, we’ve made an effort to keep people focused on each step. We don’t want them to move too quickly,” he says.
Delivering air into the call (known as “presenting air”) is the major point of learning how to call ducks during these opening days. “If you can master air presentation,” Carey said, “the rest of the steps are very easy. But if you initially form bad habits with your air, everything else is going to be more difficult.”
Carey said, “When I say ‘good air’ versus ‘bad air,’ what I’m referring to is how that air is coming out of your mouth and being presented into the call. ‘Bad air’ is like when you’re trying to blow bubbles through a straw. You’re pushing the air. It’s forceful. ‘Good air’ is hot air, like you’re trying to fog up a mirror. It comes from your diaphragm — from deep inside your body.”
There are a handful of pitfalls into which new callers can tumble as they take these first steps (e.g., choosing the wrong call or a call that’s beyond their initial skill level; holding the call incorrectly; improper air presentation; and perhaps most common, skipping out on practice).
The finest duck callers on the planet had to start somewhere. And then, as Carey instructs, they had to dedicate time to practice and get better. Fortunately in this 21st Century, new callers have access to tutorials like Slayer Calls’ Call the Wild series.
“Within Call the Wild, subscribers will find exercises for each new skill that will help them practice. We’ll present a sound, and then I’ll have the listeners copy me.” The main thing here, Carey reminded us, is muscle memory. “The more reps you can do properly,” he said, “the more you’ll be able to duplicate that skill every time you pull up the call.”