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Choosing A Short Reed Goose Call
...by Zink® Calls Z-Unit Member Rusty Hallock
©Rusty Hallock, Zink Calls®
Take a look at most goose hunter’s lanyards today and you will see at least one short reed goose call. The short reed goose call has become the most popular goose call used in the field and on the stage today because of their ability to duplicate the sounds of Canada geese. In my opinion, today’s goose hunter is living in the hay day of goose calling. Call manufacturers are offering a wide variety of short reed goose calls that are produced from state of the art polymers, such as acrylic and polycarbonates, as well as traditional products such as wood. More importantly, these calls are capable of duplicating the sounds of one goose or an entire flock of geese, which is one of the keys to consistently harvesting geese, especially in high pressured areas. One of the most difficult and exciting choices that a novice or experienced goose hunter faces is choosing the correct short reed goose call. As most goose hunters know, the simple task of walking into most local waterfowl stores can be overwhelming due to the selection of short reed goose calls. With several brands, wide range of prices and endless color combinations available in each store, the hunter is faced with countless choices for their next short reed goose call. With a little information gathering and obtaining the knowledge from some of our regional expert goose callers, the decision can become easier and educational at the same time. There are three major factors that dictate the best short reed goose call for each hunter; material that the call is produced from, call design, and environmental demands that each hunter encounters.
The material from which the call is produced plays a major role in the overall sound of the call. One factor in sound quality is the density of the material. A general rule of thumb, the denser the call material the deeper and crisper the sound of the call. Short reed goose calls are normally offered in three types of material; polycarbonate, wood, and acrylic. Polycarbonate goose calls are the least expensive of the three types of material. Polycarbonate is a plastic that is temperature and impact resistant. Since polycarbonate calls are molded, it is easier for the calls to be mass produced, which keeps the cost down for the hunter. Polycarbonate is not as dense as wood or acrylic. In turn, the sound will not be as deep and crisp as with a wood or acrylic call. This is not to say that polycarbonate calls do not have a place in the field. Polycarbonate calls are an excellent choice for the goose hunter on a budget or a beginner goose hunter that is just starting in the sport. Polycarbonate goose calls may be mass produced, but most are still hand assembled and tuned one at a time just like the custom wood or acrylic calls. Wood calls are a great choice for the goose hunter that wants 21st Century performance with a traditional look. Wood calls are normally priced between polycarbonates and acrylic. More importantly, the density of wood normally falls between polycarbonate and acrylic. Not all wooden calls are created equal. Calls that are tuned and designed identically will have a difference in sound depending on the type of wood. Some of the more common types of wood are birdseye maple and cocabola. For example, birdseye maple’s density is about 40lb. per cubic foot. Cocabola’s density is about 70lb. per cubic foot. You will be able to hear the difference in the sound when all other factors are equal. Maple will produce a mellow/raspy sound that I prefer when hunting geese over big water or in small fields. Cocabola will produce a crisp/clear sound that is very close to acrylic. Acrylic is a very popular material for short reed goose calls for a number of reasons. Acrylic is dense and is capable of producing the loud/clear notes that contest callers strive to achieve. Acrylic is also very popular in the field, calling the real judges (geese). Acrylic is very durable and not affected by the weather. The durability of acrylic calls are a godsend when you consider some of the abuse your calls receive while a field. I have dropped and banged my acrylic calls against everything imaginable with only a few scratches. Acrylic calls are more expensive then polycarbonates because they are turned from solid rods one at a time. This requires a lot more time to create a call because they can not be mass produced. If someone is searching for a call that produces a deep, rich Canada goose sound that will last for generations, I would strongly recommend an acrylic call. There are a lot of variables that affect the performance of a short reed goose call, but the material from which the call produces plays a large role in the performance of the call.
The design of the short reed call also plays a major role in the call’s performance. Actually, it is more important than the type of material from which the call is produced. Two basic design features to consider when choosing a short reed goose call is the length of the call and the size of the exhaust hole on the call. The length of a short reed goose call will affect the performance of the call. The longer the call, the more user friendly the call will be. A longer short reed call will be more forgiving to the caller that has not perfected the proper technique for air presentation into the call. Proper air presentation could be an article into itself, especially with the different schools of thought on proper air presentation. A longer call will generally produce a deeper/hollow sound, such as the Zink® SR-1. If you have someone operate an SR-1, you will notice the call will produce a deep/hollow sound. A shorter short reed goose call normally takes more skill to operate. A shorter call is less forgiving to improper air presentation. A shorter call is more responsive then a longer call. You can deliver notes a lot quicker than a longer call which can be a valuable tool when the geese want to hear aggressive calling. A shorter call’s reed/gut assembly is closer to your mouth. This allows the call to be more responsive, but also makes the call a little more difficult to run. A general rule of thumb is that shorter calls are higher in tone then longer calls. Tuning and call material also play a role with the tone of a call. Another design feature to consider when choosing your next short reed goose call is the size of the exhaust opening. A smaller exhaust opening is usually easier to operate. The smaller opening in a call will create its own back pressure. Back pressure is critical in the operation of a short reed goose call. Some calls have the back pressure built into the call, while others need proper hand position of the caller to create back pressure. A smaller exhaust on a short reed call also produces softer sounds that are perfect when you are hunting geese in smaller areas. A large exhaust allows the call to deliver more volume. The trade off for the increased volume is that hand position on the call becomes more critical for proper call operation. Hand position is crucial to create the proper back pressure. A call with a lot of volume can be extremely valuable when you are hunting large fields especially in high winds. Actually, we have only scratched the surface of design factors that affect short reed goose call performance. The call length and exhaust opening size can help you narrow your choices down when you visit your local waterfowl store. Gut assembly design and call tuning also play a huge role in call performance, but you can determine your call tuning preference by giving several brands a test drive at your local waterfowl store.
Exhaust size can make all the difference when selecting the "perfect" call to fit your needs...
©Rusty Hallock, Zink Calls®
The first two factors we discussed are dictated by the call maker. The third factor is entirely up to the caller. Environmental factors play a huge roll in determining the right short reed call for each caller. Two environmental factors to consider when purchasing a call are whether you are hunting geese over big water or in the field. When hunting geese over big water, I prefer a call with a mellower sound. I especially like a maple call. The water’s hard surface allows the sound to travel a greater distance. In my opinion, it is very easy to blow birds out with loud aggressive calling when hunting geese over big water. Geese that are sitting on the water are usually resting between feeding periods. I like to duplicate the sounds of a content flock of geese with soft clucks and moans. There are several short reeds on the market that are designed for this style of hunting. Another environmental factor to consider is the size of the field that you will be hunting. If you are hunting a small tree lined field, you have to be cognizant of your calling. You can easily blow geese out with loud aggressive calling in a small field. The woods that are present create echo that amplifies your calling. My preference for calling in a small field is a mellow call. For large open fields, I prefer a call that delivers plenty of volume especially on windy days. I have hunted on windy days when another caller is blowing finesse notes and they get totally lost in the wind. On windy days, I will normally blow loud and aggressive. Remember, these are only general rules. Everyday in the field will be different and the geese will dictate what they want to hear on a given day. When choosing your next short reed call, take into account your situation, environment that you hunt, and the performance you desire.
I hope this information will make it easier to select your next short reed goose call. Remember, the best way to select your next goose call is to consider the performance you desire in your call and visit your local waterfowl store and test drive the calls they have in stock. If you still have a few questions or you can’t get the hang of your new short reed, try to take advantage of a local calling seminar and work shops offered by local callers in your area. Our area is loaded with talented goose callers that can teach a beginner caller or take an experienced caller to the next level. Most of the time seminars are offered year round and designed to improve your calling no matter your skill level. The hands on teaching offered in these classes will dramatically shorten your learning curve. Our waterfowl seasons are several months away, but will be here before you know it, this is the perfect time to pick up a new short reed and take your waterfowling to the next level.
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