Calling Accents

Calling Accents

Author: Ducks Unlimited
Published: October 6, 2022

“Hunters in some of the country’s most celebrated waterfowling regions have developed their own unique ways of speaking a duck’s language

I’m from the South. I’ve lived here all my life. My wife is from the North. She is still assimilating to this part of the country, but there’s much that she enjoys about our regional culture. And although she continues to insist that I’m the one with the accent, she’s beginning to sound more southern all the time. I’ve even noticed the occasional “y’all” slipping into her daily parlance. At first it sounded awkward. Now I find it almost elegant.

We can often recognize where people come from by the way they speak. And if you have been fortunate enough to hunt in various parts of the country, you might have noticed differences in the ways that waterfowlers speak to ducks. Regionality can have a strong influence on calling styles. You could even say that duck callers from different regions have their own calling accents. Hunters who wade in the Arkansas timber have a different way of speaking a duck’s language than those who hunt the salt marshes of the East Coast, for example. These differences are born from years of experience hunting in unique environments and from the rich and varied waterfowling traditions from California to Maine.

Following is an overview of five of the nation’s most distinctive regional calling styles from some of the people who know them best.

Region: Reelfoot Lake
Howard Harlan
Calling style: Reelfoot Highballs

Geographically small in comparison to other historic waterfowling areas, the greater Reelfoot Lake area of northwest Tennessee has probably had more impact on duck calling than any other region. Formed by a series of massive earthquakes in the early 1800s, this unique lake is a winter haven for ducks and geese and is known as the home of the highball call.

The development of modern duck calls can be traced to a narrow region stretching from southern Illinois to west Tennessee with Reelfoot as its epicenter. Famous call makers like Victor Glodo and Johnny Marsh were pioneers in the duck call industry, and in the early to mid-20th century they developed big-barreled metal reed calls that helped give them an edge over the competition. Those very loud, high-pitched calls became the chosen tools for traditional Reelfoot callers.

“The Reelfoot calling style is different because it’s a combination of highballs,” says game-call historian, author, and collector Howard Harlan. “This call doesn’t actually sound like a duck, but it works. We’ll use this technique to call to high ducks, but we’ll also use it to call a duck right to the blind. Some people do use plastic-reed calls, but the metal reeds ring like a tuning fork.”

The full article from Ducks Unlimited can be viewed with this link.

Photo credit: Original Author


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