Neglected duck calls cause nothing but aggravation – first, from the birds that fly away, and then, from the hunters in your blind. I spoke to a couple of folks in the duck and goose call business to find out the best ways to maintain a duck call.

When to clean a call:

  • At the end of every season, or more frequently if you use the call a lot.
  • When a call becomes too hard or too easy to blow.
  • When the sound is greatly distorted.
  • When the call has been dropped in dirt or dirty water or otherwise contaminated.

Basic cleaning

The call pros I talked to advise not to take a call fully apart. Goose calls, they said, are especially finicky to tune after reassembly. Rather, they suggest pulling the barrel off the call and cleaning the reed(s) using a very small amount (a drop or so) of mild dish soap on a damp cloth. Then, use a toothbrush to clean the barrel, insert, and surface parts other than the reed. Next, run clean water through the barrel and the insert, and gently lift the reed(s) so that water can run through the tone board as well.

If you have to get behind a reed or between reeds, clean with a Q-tip or something similar, being careful not to bend or put a crimp in the reed or reeds. If the call has an O-ring, clean that as well.

The works

A full cleaning involves taking the entire call apart and cleaning each component. While it sounds easy enough, it can lead to frustration on reassembly if the components are not precisely placed back in their original locations. If you must take a call apart entirely for cleaning, the following is recommended:

Louisiana style: Mark the reed(s) where they meet the wedge using a pencil or marker. Also mark where the wedge where it meets the barrel. Then you will have references when reassembling.

Arkansas style: Mark the reed(s) just to show which side faces up since the way the reed bend faces will make a difference.

Wooden calls

Though rare, on occasion the finish of a wooden call might wear thin. In that case, call the manufacturer and ask the best stain or coating to apply.

If a call does not sound right after reassembly post-cleaning, most custom call manufacturers offer re-tuning services.

Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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