John's Journal...

Calling All Ducks by John E. Phillips with Eli Haydel

Day 2: Learn the Rules to Begin Calling Ducks with Eli Haydel

Editor’s Note: While chasing webfoots though the marshes and wetlands of southwest Louisiana for the last 50+ years, Eli Haydel, the founder of Haydel Game Calls and one of the nation’s leading duck callers, has learned how to read ducks as well as a postal worker reads dogs and knows which will bite.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View"One of the first rules you must learn as a beginning duck caller is not to call when birds are flying toward you and your decoys," Haydel reports. "The call is used only as a last-ditch effort to get the ducks to come into the decoys, once they've made the decision not to light in your spread or if it looks like they're going to land outside your decoys beyond shooting range. Many inexperienced hunters will bag a limit of ducks quicker if they'll keep their calls in their pockets."

Haydel believes that when each outdoors person duck hunts, he or she must make one of two choices. "The sportsman must decide whether he wants to take ducks or whether he wants to call ducks. If he wants to call ducks, he can play with his call and the birds. But he probably won't bag as many ducks. If I have ducks coming to my decoys, I don't call until the birds have passed over the decoys and are leaving the area. Then I give a hard, loud, comeback call with a sense of urgency. I only use a five-note call. If the wingbeats of the ducks don't change, and the birds don't start to turn, then these ducks aren't going to work."

If a flight of birds were to pass 50 to 60 yards in front of the decoys and flew left to right in front of the blind, I asked Haydel how he could tell if the ducks would work to a call. "The altitude of the birds will determine this," Haydel explains. "High flyers in a tight V usually have a destination in mind. Low flyers are worth calling in hopes they'll be attracted to your call and decoys. During late season, mallards often pair-up for courtship prior to northern migration. I only make a short greeting call to them. On occasion they'll turn, but usually they're not interested in other ducks. I'll often use a pintail whistle to call those ducks. The pintail is a very-wary duck but will light on the water with a wide variety of other ducks. I believe that when passing ducks hear the pintail whistle, they assume the flock sitting on the water is safe and secure, and if they turn and come to it, they won't encounter danger."

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewWhen a flight of ducks passes on the left or the right side of a blind, sailing with their wings locked and their heads looking down at the spread, Haydel says that hunters usually can coax in these ducks. "When a duck drops its head to look at a decoy spread, and the bird quits flying and begins sailing, the duck already has made-up its mind to light in the decoys," Haydel explains. "That bird is looking at the decoys, the blind and the whole set-up to try to see if there's any reason he shouldn't set down."

The formation of the flight also dictates whether or not you can work the ducks. As Haydel observes, "If the ducks are in a tight V and flying high, the birds have made-up their minds to leave where they are and head to another destination. Those birds aren't interested in any-other ducks. More than likely a hunter won't be able to call them. If a flight of ducks isn't in a tight V but is simply flying together, and one or two of the birds in the flight are sailing and looking down, this group of waterfowl is searching for a place to light and can be called. However, the best way to call these birds is to wait until after they've passed by the blind.”

AmazonTo get John E. and Denise Phillips’ Kindle eBook, “The Best Wild Game & Seafood Cookbook Ever: 350 Southern Recipes for Deer, Turkey, Fish, Seafood Small Game and Birds,” click here. Or, go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.




Share this page with a friend!

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Making Mallard Duck Music and Pintail Playing with Eli Haydel

Check back each day this week for more about Calling All Ducks by John E. Phillips with Eli Haydel"

Day 1: Knowing How to Make the Ducks Sit Down Right in Front of You with Eli Haydel
Day 2: Learn the Rules to Begin Calling Ducks with Eli Haydel
Day 3: Making Mallard Duck Music and Pintail Playing with Eli Haydel
Day 4: Calling Teal and Gadwalls with Eli Haydel
Day 5: How to Hunt Diving Ducks, Hypnotized Ducks and Non-Workable Ducks with Eli Haydel

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 746, Day 2