If you are in the market for the best duck call, you are in luck. With decades of duck hunting experience, I have had the opportunity to try out duck calls in the field from just about every manufacturer including Duck Commander, Haydel’s, Primos, Rich-N-Tone, Zink and many more. If you are just starting your search, check out the buyer’s guide guide or jump straight into the list of the best duck calls, most of which can be had for under $50.
Every year, August approaches and I start my search for the latest and greatest duck hunting gear and I usually start with duck calls. Since there isn’t much that changes from year to year, other than the colors and looks, I can check that off pretty quick. I have done this for years now and have become the go to person in the hunting club for duck calls.
Growing up in south Louisiana I had access to some of the best duck hunting in all of North America. If you are not familiar with the Mississippi Flyway, it is a 2,300 mile North to South stretch of watershed along the Mississippi River. This is the most heavily used migration corridor for waterfowl and other birds in North America.
I have hunted up and down this corridor all of my life, and frequent the famous coastal marshlands of Louisiana, flooded timbers of northern Louisiana and Arkansas which I first learned about watching the Duckmen VHS tapes as a kid, like the clip below. Another popular venue are the crawfish ponds littered throughout the state which also serve as rice fields part of the year. The only constant in these extremely different habitats is the duck calls and duck decoys. Even then, you will use different styles of calls and different decoy spreads.
Having easy access these famed hunting areas, you get to networked with so many great hunters and trade tips and tricks. Although, you also learn quickly that no one will give up their hot spots! One of my favorite topics aside getting updates on where they are flying (marsh, fields, or timber) is what duck calls folks are using and are they seeing more success with one or the other.
I have tried pretty much every duck call out there over the years and for the most part there are just are two types of calls in a couple of configurations. I have put together a very comprehensive guide to help you sort out the details and decide the best duck call to put on your lanyard for the different habitats hunters will frequent. Feel free to drop a comment any questions as well.
How To Choose: A Guide to Duck Calls and Whistles
There are really only two types of duck calls you will commonly find on the shelves of stores. The traditional reed-based duck call that produces the quack sounds most people are familiar with. The other is the whistle, which most newcomers to the sport aren’t previously aware of.
At minimum you are going to want at least one reed type duck call and one whistle. This will provide you an arsenal of different call types you can achieve when trying to call the ducks into your decoy spread. I am most certain that you will likely fill up your lanyard with 5-6 calls if you are anything like me and want to be ready use the most nuanced of duck calling techniques.
Whatever the call, it should be able to make these basic calls; the quack, the feed call, and the hail/comeback call. The “quack” is the most used in hunting and is a short, sharp note. The feed call is a bit more difficult and is a sequence of rapid short notes of varying pitch that ducks make while feeding. The hail/comeback call are the loudest and longest notes, typically used to attract the attention of far-away ducks.
Reed type calls reproduce the quack sound made by mallards which is the most prevalent and hunted ducks. However, the quack isn’t exclusive to the mallard so manufacturers also make calls tailored to other duck species as well.
When searching for duck calls you really only have two things to look out for. Reed configuration and the material the duck call is made out of. These two things will determine how the call performs, and how the call will sound.
- SINGLE REED: This configuration of duck call is extremely versatile but that versatility comes at the cost of difficulty in mastering. Since there is only one reed in this configuration there is less resistance and forgiveness to the air that passes and causes the vibration of the reed. This requires greater control over the air you blow and tongue position which usually takes a while to master.
Difficulty aside, a single reed configuration will allow you to produce louder calls which are great in open fields/water, which will reach ducks off in the distance. It will also allow you to produce a wider variety of sounds, allowing an expert caller to mimic the sound of several duck species with a single call.
- DOUBLE REED: A much more forgiving configuration, double reed calls are much easier to use and are the recommended style duck hunters just starting to use a duck call for the first time.
This beginner friendly style of call is much more forgiving when using the louder hail or comeback call as well as quieter more controlled “quack” call. A newcomer can pick this call up and produce a decent sound with minimal practice. PRO TIP: The better quality calls will come closer to sounds and loudness that single reed calls achieve.
- TRIPLE REED: You can expect the same performance out of the triple reed as a double reed but at an even more subdued degree. Pushing air past a three reeds requires more air to produce the same affect giving you more room for error. It also produces a much raspier tone much like the double reed than a single reed. PRO TIP: Calls with multiple reeds are prone to having the reeds freeze together after they have been used in extreme temperature. Keep the calls tucked into a jacket when not being used.
There are three common materials that duck calls are made of which include, wood, plastic/polycarbonate, and acrylic. Each material will have distinct characteristics as well as pros and cons to them.
- WOOD: The very first duck calls were made out of wood and it is a time tested material. You can expect wood to have particular characteristics like having a softer & smoother tone and being somewhat quieter than its poly and acrylic counterparts. The best wood for duck calls will depend on the type of call you plan to use it for but they perform best in timber hunts or close encounters. Soft tone woods like Cedar, Mahogany, and Rosewood will provide richer yet softer, quieter sound. Hard woods like Cocobolo, Walnut, and Maple will produce louder sharper sounding calls.
High quality wood duck calls can produce some of the most realistic duck sounds. The best duck calls made from wood are usually cheaper than the acrylic calls as well. The downside of wood calls is that the can be sensitive to temperature change and moisture, but this is dependent on the wood used and the finishing techniques. Durability concerns can also be minimized with proper care and use. PRO TIP: Purchase wood calls with brass or steel rings which will prevent splitting.
- ACRYLIC: The most popular choice among hunters for high-end duck calls is without a doubt acrylic. Acrylic calls are the most durable, long lasting calls that produce loud and accurate sounds. The high density material produces loud yet crisp tones allowing hunters to achieve extreme control in their calling.
The only downside if there has to be one, is the cost of an acrylic duck call. Acrylic calls are usually the most pricey duck calls by a healthy margin. I have seen some acrylic models top $150, by comparison I have yet to see a wood or poly call top $100 much less $75.
- PLASTIC/POLYCARBONATE: Polycarbonate and high-impact plastic calls have come a long way as formulas have got better. Poly calls can have similar characteristics to the pricier acrylic calls but a much cheaper price. These duck calls are durable and will last a long time even under a good amount of abuse. Plastic calls will be even cheaper and have slightly different characteristics than polycarbonate.
While the characteristics of poly calls are similar to acrylic, this material will not be as sharp/precise as acrylic, and as forgiving or realistic as wood calls. That said, the cheaper priced polycarbonate calls are usually the best duck calls for beginners, while the high-end models are great for more experienced callers.
If you are new to the duck hunting world you may not have realized but some species of ducks are also known to make a whistling call or sound. These include the Mallard Drake, Teal Drake, Pintail Drake, and Wigeon. This is must have on the duck call lanyard as it is cheap and extremely versatile, mimicking the call of several species in a single whistle.
There a several variations of the duck whistle ranging from the very straight forward in which the whistle is made to make none other than a whistle sound. Then there are the whistles that have things like little balls within the whistle that roll around attempting to make varying duck sounds without much work from the caller.
Personally, I think the popular 6-1 whistle that several manufactures make variants of is all you will ever need. This plastic call is cheap and can mimic all of the whistling duck sounds as well as dove and quail.
WOOD DUCK CALL
Technically this is not a whistle call, in fact, it is a reed call. However, it creates such a high pitch sound, almost like a squeal, folks sometime think of it as a whistle. That said, the same characteristics that affect reed calls above apply to wood duck calls. The best wood duck calls are going to be made from poly or acrylic as they will achieve the sharp sounding squeal or chirp better than wood can.
Now that I have covered everything you need to consider in a duck call, you should consider the types of conditions and areas you regular hunt when choosing the best duck call for your needs. For example, if you hunt flooded timber a lot, a wooden duck or one in a double or triple reed configuration may suit you perfectly as you won’t need a loud call like you would if you were calling ducks in from far away in an open field on a windy day.
The 7 Best Duck Call Reviews
These are the best duck calls on the market right now and are revered by hunters and serious duck callers alike. I as well as all of my hunting buddies have great success using these calls and I’m certain you will too.
Probably one of the best all around duck calls on the market, the Triple Threat is an easy to blow triple reed duck call that is versatile, durable, and sounds great. With this call you won’t be sky busting anymore since even the inexperienced will likely be calling flocks into decoy spreads.
It is designed to easily replicate the Mallard hen quack, feed call, and hail call. The Triple Threat’s ability to mimic the low gravel tones for mature hens to high scratchy pitch for young hens is pretty impressive. Another great thing about this call is how easily it is to clean and tune.
If there were anything negative about this call is the lack of a lanyard ring but with a little creativity anyone can make it work. The feeder call doesn’t excel with this call either but again, an experienced caller can make it work or you can load up another on the lanyard for the feed call. If you have had trouble in past finding success with calls, I highly recommend the Triple Threat.
The Double Nasty is an outstanding double reed call that achieves both the raspiness and the range of a single reed call in an easy to blow barrel. Outfitted with Buck Gardner’s Spit Tech, this calls has the ability to resist sticking of the reeds giving callers consistent performance.
Another great thing about this call is the control you get. I find it incredibly versatile and can achieve a variety of calls including the feed call with great precision and control. The poly-carbonate barrel combined with Spit Tech makes this a great all weather call that is very durable.
If you are looking for versatility and durability you will definitely be impressed with the Double Nasty and the best part is how affordable this call is. If you haven’t tried this call, I highly recommended and the best part is it is so easy use you can let the little ones give it ago and see their face when calling ducks into the spread.
One of the best finisher duck calls I have found, the Duck Commander Camo Max was specifically designed to use for those close up encounters with ducks. If you are having trouble with ducks circling the blind just out of shooting range, this call will seal the deal or at least give you the best chance at finishing it.
The Camo Max is a highly durable solid plastic call finished in a Realtree Max 4 camo pattern that keeps this call hidden in the blind. The call gives a precise mallard hen sound blown soft or loud and brings them ducks in! It is important to point out this is definitely a duck call the falls into the specialty or niche category. It is not as versatile as other calls on the list but it serves its purpose extremely well.
If you haven’t found a duck call to finish the job this is it! The best part is for a specialty call, it won’t break the bank to pick this one up along with a few others to have an arsenal of calls at the ready. Finally, If you are worried how it fairs reaching ducks at distance, an experienced caller should have no problem working it.
Haydel’s Game Calls #1 seller, the Deceiver is a great duck call that is fully adjustable using a floating double reed system. Another duck call perfect for the beginner, this affordable call is easy to blow and is quite loud.
The plastic construction is not as robust as others which makes it prone to freezing in extreme conditions but keeping it tucked inside your jacket or pocket you won’t have to worry too much about that. This call is surprisingly loud for a double reed system which allows for reaching those far away flocks.
This is a tried and true call that many hunters rely on with great success, and if you need a call that just works this will certainly fill that role. Another versatile call that fits in well with any expanded collection.
If you are looking for a premium call made from wood, the Timber Hunter is one of the best duck calls made of wood and won’t break the bank like some others. A single reed call that utilizes a custom crafted wooden barrel, it is a very nice looking call.
The the combination of the single reed with a wooden barrel will allow you to achieve both loud and low raspy calls easily. The wood allows you achieve a warm natural tone while being an easy to blow call. Blowing too hard on this call will not really produce an off putting sound like other single reed calls so beginners will have good success with this call as well.
If you want a nice looking wooden duck call, the Timber hunter is certainly one to check out. Rich-N-Tone is a very respectable company and they make very high quality duck calls that are highly recommended. Grab the Timber Hunter for a different calling experience compared to the more common plastic and poly calls.
The Faulk’s Deluxe duck call is a great wooden duck call made of walnut that is tuned for smooth, natural mallard tones. What you see is what you get with this call and most folks I know that use love the consistency they get from this call.
The wood construction also makes it great at resisting freezing compared to the plastic and poly duck calls. This duck call also has a nice raspy sound to it that mallards love. I have also found great success calling in Gadwalls more than any of my other calls.
If you are looking for a classic looking and sounding call that won’t break the bank, this call is just what you need. It meets both of those criteria and is a nice addition to a collection if all you own are poly or acrylic duck calls.
Zink’s Nothing But Green is the only acrylic call on my list because it is one of the best acrylic duck calls on the market and since they are so expensive there aren’t many that are worth it. This duck call is best in the hands of expert callers due to the price, but in those expert hands it will wow you.
Nothing But Green is one of the most versatile calls in the Zink line and in the hands of an advanced caller, you will have no trouble getting a limit even on the quietest of days. It has a substantial, ringing high end and a low end feeder chuckle that will absolutely grab their attention. The advanced design of this call allows you to sound like multiple hen mallards, effectively creating a cone of sound that is certain to grab their attention.
The Z-Cut no-stick tone board allows a huge range of sounds and virtually eliminate any reed lock and sticking. The call comes complete with an extra reed, instructional DVD, Zink leg band, and a protective hard case. If you have the cash, and are a confident caller, this is the acrylic duck call you want.
The 3 Best Wood Duck Calls & Whistle Reviews
Hailed as the best Wood Duck call of the market, the Robertsons and the Duck Commander team have taken their decades of experience hunting Mallards and Wood Ducks in the flooded timbers and created the most effective wood duck out there. The D-1 is a single reed, high impact plastic call will produce consistent calls while standing up to abuse in the field.
As I said above in the guide, a Wood Duck call sounds nothing like a traditional quack sound, but this call mimics a Wood Duck like no other. Each call is individually tuned and blown prior to shipping out so you can be sure this call will offer a variety of accurate flying and sitting sounds of the Wood Duck.
This call does take a bit of practice to produce the proper sound but there are a ton of YouTube videos to reference to get you started. Once you get your bearings this is also a great in the late season as a confidence call to attract wary ducks. With this call you’ll be knocking woodies down like never before.
As far as duck whistles go, this is one of the easiest manual whistles out on the market. Perfect for the kids or beginner callers in the blind to compliment the reed calls. This 6 in 1 call will mimic calls from six different species including, Teal Drake, Pintail Drake, Mallard Drake, Wigeon Drake, Dove, Quail.
I like to refer to this call as the gumbo call because of all of the possibilities packed into this tiny little call. This is duck whistle is a must have on any duck call lanyard. You just can not beat this call as it is cheap, versatile, and can even double as your dog whistle out in the field.
After picking up the Duck Commander 6 in 1 Duck Whistle be sure to head over to YouTube and grab some tips. You will hit the ground running with this call after learning a few things from those videos.
While not as versatile as the 6 in 1, Primos High roller takes some of the guess work off of you and produces the whistle of the Pintail, Mallard drake, Wigeon and teal with little manual work on your part. The built-in ball creates the fluttering sounds made by ducks with only a simple blow of the call.
Another great duck call for the beginner or kids, for its ease of use and durable plastic build. A great grab and go call for anyone to have on the lanyard.
I hope that you found the duck call guide useful and found duck call that worked best for the situations and habitats you hunt in. If you have a favorite call that isn’t on the list drop us a comment and let us know what you have had success with.
Don’t forget to grab a lanyard when you start build that collection, personally I have found the Delta Duck Para-cord Lanyard to be the best lanyard for duck calls. It doesn’t really tangle and has been quite durable over many seasons.