Skip to main content

When Old Ducks Become New Ducks

Barnie Calef | Mossy Oak ProStaff

Barnie Calef duck hunting

I’m often asked, “At the end of the season, when a severe cold front is coming in that moves the old ducks out of your area and brings new ducks into the place you're hunting, how do you take those new ducks?” 

As an example, 520,000 stale ducks are sitting on the Missouri River 120 miles from my hunting camp. Because those ducks are so close to us, if the storm is really severe, the storm can push those ducks right past us. However, if the storm isn’t so bad, and it doesn’t blow the stale ducks 120 miles away from us past our duck club, then those stale ducks become new ducks.  Once fresh ducks that may have been stale ducks where they were living come into a new area, then they change into new ducks. Even though those ducks have heard a lot of calling and been hunted heavily, when they move into a new place, they really don’t know anything about where they are, where the hunters are, or what the decoy spreads look like there. 

When new ducks are flying in during the late season, those new ducks can pick out bad duck calling. So, you’ve got to be really good then with your duck calling. You’ve got to tell those ducks what they want to hear when they want to hear it. Regardless of how many duck calls those birds have heard, or how far down the flyway they’ve come, when you blow a five to six note hen greeting call raspy and aggressive, you can call those ducks. If you blow that five or six note call one time really good, often that’s all the calling you need to give to those ducks. If more duck hunters understand when to shut up and not call, they'll take more ducks. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, in the late season, less calling is better

You also need to know when to call to ducks. You never call to them when they’re coming to the decoys. You only call to them when they're leaving the decoys. When ducks are coming in to a decoy spread, they're not looking for what’s right about the spread. They're looking for what’s wrong about the spread. So, don’t blow the call, don’t move, and don’t call to the birds when they're right over the top of your blind. 

When you blow your call, and the ducks are right over you, they know exactly who you are, and where you are, especially if you're in an open-top blind. In a pit blind where you're covered up, you may be able to call when the ducks are straight over you. But I absolutely won’t call to a duck until it's past the blind. Then I give the best hen greeting or comeback call that I’ve got. The more aggressive you make that call, the more successful you'll be in turning the ducks, even when you're hunting stale ducks. 

The reason I said that you have to be good with a duck call is that I've learned that a person who calls confidently sounds very different from a hunter who calls timidly. The timid duck caller isn’t going to get as many good results as the confident duck caller who calls aggressively.

Mossy Oak Pro Barnie Calef of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has been hunting ducks for 47 years, is the owner of Calef Calls Inc. that produces duck and goose calls. Calef is also the host of Drake’s Migration Nation on the Pursuit Channel. Although Calef hunts waterfowl primarily in the Midwest, he hunts waterfowl all over the nation, too.

Latest Content