Hunting Waterfowl Hunting Duck Hunting

How to Attract Call-Shy Ducks

A decoy or two attached to a jerk cord will impart enticing motion to your setup. Photo by Bill Buckley.

On days when birds are responding well and turning in to decoys easily, it’s a breeze to bag your limit. But when the birds aren’t as eager to cooperate, you need to switch your tactics. Here are some tips that can help you bring even the flightiest birds to your spread.

Expand Your Calling Arsenal
One key to successfully calling shy ducks is diversifying your calls. Kelly Haydel of Haydel’s Game Calls suggests adding a variable tone call that allows you to do a short series of old hen calls combined with a series of young hen calls, which provides a more natural sound. Mixing in a pintail whistle is an excellent finisher. Rene Dandry of Louisiana Delta Outfitters likes to combine a gadwall call and a whistle, a pairing that has worked well for him when hunting call-shy birds.

Add Some Motion
Dandry says that one of the best ways to bring call-shy ducks into range is by adding motion to your spread. He uses a decoy on a jerk line to simulate natural movement, which helps the birds feel more at ease and makes them respond more readily to soft calling.

Make the Setup More Appealing
Late in the season, Haydel adds pairs of decoys to his spread to mimic pairing. Dandry likes to use feeder butts as a way to coax call-shy ducks into range. Both men suggest setting up for a natural approach, giving the ducks room to land and funneling them into shooting range based on the wind.

Mixing a pintail whistle into your calling sequence is a great way to get the attention of wary ducks. Photo by Lance Krueger.

Do More With Less
Loud, aggressive calling doesn’t work well on wary birds, so keep your calls soft and don’t call at the ducks.

“Many times I will actually cup my hand and call in the opposite direction of the ducks so as not to have the megaphone effect,” says Haydel. He says that calling directly toward circling birds can often spook them.

Make Aggressive Calls Short and Sweet
Haydel contends that although aggressive calling occassionally works, you need to keep the series short. He uses his company’s Stout-14 and calls aggressively but only using a series of five to nine choppy notes. Paying attention to the birds and reading their body language can help you determine how to call.

Calls for Gun-Shy Birds

Haydel’s VTM-90 Variable Tone


This double-reed call lets you switch tones to mimic two different hens in one call sequence by opening and closing the hole in the exhaust barrel. ($21;

Rich-N-Tone Microhen Black Call


This stubby little call (3 ³⁄₄ inches long) allows the user to easily make soft hen calls, yet it is capable of producing more volume when needed. ($115;

Buck Gardner 6N1 Pintail Whistle


This inexpensive yet versatile call can mimic the sounds of various ducks, and it allows you to make the soft, attractive whistle of a passing pintail. ($6;