The idea of calling waterfowl might intimidate some hunters, but that need not be the case.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
Field Hudnall’s entry into turkey hunting was initially traumatic.
The problem was his calling or, rather, his fear of it.
“I would sit and listen to the (instructional) tape and think, OK, now there’s a cluck and there’s a putt. You want to cluck, you don’t want to putt because a putt’s a warning sound,” he said.
“And I’m sitting there thinking, they sound the same to me. And what I’m doing, I don’t know if I’m clucking or I’m putting, so now I didn’t even want to call. I was stressed beyond belief.”
You don’t have to worry about that when calling waterfowl, he said.
Hudnall, owner of Field Proven Calls in Lagrange, Ky., and co-host of Ducks Unlimited TV, said when it comes to ducks and geese, there’s no sound a hunter can make on a call that will scare birds away.
“If it exists, I’ve never heard it,” he said.
In fact, he said, with waterfowl, silence is their warning. As proof, he pointed to the geese in a local park. They’ll be chattering if left alone. The moment a woman walks past with her leashed dog, they stand up, go silent and remain on alert, he noted.
It’s only when the walker and her dog are gone – and the birds are again comfortable – that they go back to talking.
Hunters, he said, should remember that in the field.
Ducks and geese know, especially as the weather gets colder, that there’s safety in numbers, he said. Calling to one another is their way of inviting company.
They aren’t always saying the same thing.
When ducks call to one another, it’s “more of a welcoming thing,” Hudnall said. With Canada geese, the feeding bird in a field might be saying ‘stop on by but leave my lunch alone,’ he added, while the birds in the air take that differently.
“Those geese in the air are saying, well, here’s the guy doing all the talking. He’s got something to lose. Let’s go to him and see what he’s got,” Hudnall said.
Either way, he noted, the birds will come in. The key is to keep inviting them until they do.
When he gets a flock’s attention, he continues calling until they’re all the way in.
That’s not what he was taught growing up. Then, he said, the idea was to call until you got the birds’ attention, then to shut up.
“That’s actually just the opposite of what you want to do,” he said. “If they respond, I want to call them all the way until it’s time to shoot.”
He suggests learning a few calls and getting good at them. Then, use them.
Ducks and geese call to show enthusiasm and excitement. The good caller reflects that, he added.
“The call is a really important tool that can change things in your favor if you don’t have the location, if your hide’s not that good of or you maybe only have two dozen decoys,” he said.
Still time for calling waterfowl
A lot of hunters are gearing up for bear and deer seasons, but there’s still plenty of time to chase ducks and geese, too.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, across the state’s north zone, ducks are in season through Nov. 18, then come back in from Dec. 19 to Jan. 13. In the northwest zone, hunting continues now through Dec. 9 and again Dec. 26 to 30.
In the Lake Erie zone, hunting runs straight through Jan. 6.
In the south zone, the season re-opens on Nov. 21 and goes through Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, as for Canada geese, they’re legal to take from now through Nov. 25, Dec. 18 to Jan. 20 and again from Jan. 27 to Feb. 24 in the resident population zone that accounts for most of the state.
The two exceptions are the Southern James Bay and Atlantic population zones.
In the Southern James Bay area, the season is open now through Nov. 25 and from Dec. 12 to Jan. 30. In the Atlantic zone, the season runs now through Nov. 25 and from Dec. 16 to Jan. 31.