Thursday, June 24, 2010

When the best things in life aren't free, keep looking 'til they are...

One of the advantages of working for a major outdoors magazine like Field & Stream is the incredible amount of free swag that is heaped upon you. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I wouldn’t have any personal experience with such matters. Being a non-masthead, near-anonymous contract freelancer occupying the bottom rung of the website, the only free swag I get is whatever I can manage to dig out from under the sofa cushions at my grandmother’s house.

But every now and then even I get a bone thrown to me, and such was the case last season when my covetous, greedy little hands came into possession of one of those hand-turned, ultra-expensive acrylic duck calls, the kind of call every serious waterfowler has hanging around his band-encrusted lanyard.

Now, a quick note about my duck calling: it sucks. And trust me, there’s not a lick of false modesty in that statement. I really do. I never had a mentor, so I’m completely “self-taught” (with all that that implies…). As such, and also because I’m poor, I’ve always blown cheap calls and learned to blow them very, very sparingly. I’ll never win any contests, I’ll never really “work” a flock of ducks with my calling and I’ll never garner any admiring glances from fellow hunters in a duck blind. I merely eke out the best I can with the limited knowledge I have and find my solace and sustenance somewhere within that experience. It’s always worked for me. It also helps that I hunt mostly alone and therefore the only hunt my calling can ruin is my own. That's pretty convenient.

But I admit to having always had an unreasonable and unhealthy lust for one of those high-end calls, and when mine came (a gift from an editor friend of mine) I hurriedly ripped open the package, put it to my lips and blew a long, wailing highball…

Later, after the shattered living-room windows had been replaced, I tried telling myself that maybe this call was a little too high-powered, a little beyond my duck-calling ken. It was a competition call, and while a competition-level caller could no doubt make it sing in a duck blind, I was no competition-level caller. All I could do with it was scare the neighbors. It did that very well.

But I took it hunting, anyway. Once. On one of those calm, clear, crystalline mornings tailor-made for soft, spare and subtle calling, I was armed with a Frenchhorn. No matter how hard I tried to tone it down, I kept blasting out calls that weren’t merely loud, they were sonic death rays. Finally, admitting to myself I couldn’t blow the call worth a damn, I took it off the lanyard and went back to my cheap old Lohman and my cheap old Olt. I couldn’t blow them worth a damn, either, but at least I was blowing them poorly, softly.

So I guess the moral of the story is, I just need to keep getting free, expensive duck calls until I find one that I like…


  1. If competition calls are like competition calling, I wouldn't worry about it. That stuff bears no resemblance to reality - it's turned into a form of music.

    But you should get together with my friend Hellen. She's married to a classical guitarist/composer, but none of his talent has rubbed off on her. Her calling is spectacular. She revels in her atonal madness.

  2. Maybe you've misunderstood its intended purpose.

    Maybe you lure in ducks by using your cheap old calls, or just by shutting up, then blast them out of the sky with the Horn of Death. Heck, from the description, skybusting geese 200 yards up would probably work.

  3. Chad, that was hilarious. Also, Tovar took my line.

  4. Our calling styles and equipment, along with education in calling, are remarkably similar. I hope you keep getting free expensive duck calls and reviewing them. That way, maybe I can figure out if I need to buy one.

  5. Sorry for the delayed response, I've been out of town and off the 'puter...

    Norcal, you haven't heard atonal until you've heard me...

    Tovar, most of the time the call around my neck is for decoration only and the way I lure them in is through blind luck and sitting still...

    mdmnm, I think that's probably it for the free duck calls for me. I probably won't be offered any more and I certainly can't justify buying one, at least a plastic one. I might be convinced to buy a nice wood call just for the artistic valus