Category Archives: game calls

Gear Review: RNT Short Barrel Duck Call

The first duck call I ever ran was a wooden single reed Olt that my Dad gave me when I was eight.  I finished second in a youth calling contest with it in 1990, but then drifted away from duck calling and into other things during my juvenile and adolescent years.  When I dove headlong into waterfowl it was goose hunting that I fell in love with and while most of my disposable income has been funneling its way into goose calls (see the post previous to this for more on that), I’ve long been considering a solid, high quality single reed duck call for my lanyard.

The colours on this call are just gorgeous.
The colours on this call are just gorgeous.

For the last decade or so various average double reed polycarbonate duck calls have worked serviceably on my lanyard and names like Buck Gardner, Knight & Hale, Zink, and Haydel’s have had their chance.  They’ve been passable but not without limitations, and this week it was time to move into high-performance territory.

Now this is not to say the above brands were not good calls, and I’ve been particularly fond of my Red Leg mallard from Haydel’s and will likely keep it on my string, but after testing countless calls, I made the move to RNT, and specifically to a single reed Short Barrel in bocote wood.  The call is, in a word, impressive.  I tried other single reed calls in the RNT line in the lead up to this purchase and two weeks ago I found myself holding an acrylic Daisy Cutter and the bocote Short Barrel in my left and right hands respectively.  I was filling the local BassPro store with racket as I sawed away hail calls, single quacks, and feed calls on each one.  I ultimately settled on the Short Barrel for reasons I will explain below.  As always these are my personal findings and preferences and I’d encourage anyone to do what I did and try out as many calls from as many manufacturers until you find what sounds and works best for your style of calling.

As I said, RNT won the day on this one, and I’ll start by saying that their ‘brand’ definitely had a hand in this decision.  Located in the heart of (and some would the epicenter of) southern USA duck country, RNT operates out of Stuttgart, Arkansas which happens to be where the World Duck Calling Championships are held annually (in case you’ve been living under a rock for a while).  But more than their location, I’ve always respected their no-nonsense, non-gimmicky approach to waterfowling.  These guys just make duck calls and hunt ducks in a straightforward, no BS kind of way and that is appealing to me.

It doesn’t hurt that they churn out some of the purest-sounding duck calls on the market either, and the Short Barrel is no exception.

On first run, it was obvious that this was the call I had to have on my lanyard come this fall.  I have a lot of ‘loud’ duck calls so windy day range or aggressive hail calling was not something I was worried about; instead I wanted something a little more true sounding for close-in work and finesse, and that is something the Short Barrel has in spades.  The compact size and mellow sound of the wood puts a smooth edge on the mid-range and soft quacks, while feed calls roll out of this little call with ease.  It can still get loud, but not in that ringing, nasty-edged way that an acrylic call would be apt to.  The risk here is that when blown too hard, this call does seem to squeak and lock up.  In short it requires a lighter touch than I may be used to, so of course practice has been the key for the last few weeks.

The call is new but even now it is surprisingly responsive, so I’m chomping at the bit to hear how it sounds once I’ve broken bit in somewhat.  As it stands currently, this call descends down a five note scale cleanly, and changes speeds with only the most subtle variations in air pressure.  Speaking of pressure, absolutely no back pressure is required to run this call through all the sounds a hunter would require; the mellow tone of the bocote softens the feed calls and quacks nicely.  I have found that applying back pressure only muffles the resonance that the Short Barrel has naturally built into it.

The bottom-end sounds are mellow from the bocote wood, but the call can be charged up for aggressive calling as well.
The bottom-end sounds are mellow from the bocote wood, but the call can be charged up for aggressive calling as well.

Now of course, the sound is the key here, but it should be noted that the Short Barrel in bocote looks damn sexy as well.  The wood has a dark chocolate grain that runs through a caramel-colored body and the call is completed with a low-gloss band.  I have also always loved the smell of wooden duck calls and this one is no different; something about the smell of wood call takes me back to my childhood of learning to call ducks on Dad’s classic Olt call.

Since it is the off-season right now, the one part missing from this review is field performance, but that just means in a month or so I get to write about this call again, so that’s a plus.  In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting in the basement, practicing and rasping away on this new toy of mine and waiting for the October morning when I get to slide on my waders, find an out of the way spot in the long grass, and wait for the whistling of mallard wings.

When it happens, I think the Short Barrel will be ready for the spotlight.

On the Lanyard: Goose Call Edition

In the years since I became an “independent” (read: unaccompanied adult) hunter, I have accumulated goose calls at a near staggering rate.  I’m not on the level of calling myself a collector yet, only because I define a collector as someone who owns more of something than they could conceivable utilize.

I’ve conversed with goose call manufacturers and collectors, as well as men and women with dozens and dozens (and in a few cases, over a hundred) of goose calls, and even they admit that there is no way they could possibly hunt with them all.  Some are showpiece or limited edition calls, others just calls that look nice on a mantle, while others still are ‘working calls’ that sound exceptional and see their share of time in the blinds, fields, pits, and swamps that we waterfowlers frequently skulk about in.

To date, all my calls have been ‘working’ calls, and both through the expansion of my goose calling abilities, as well as through necessities of space and finances, I’ve been turning my inventory of calls over these past twenty years by selling or trading older calls for either newer calls themselves or more frequently, for the capital required to purchase more goose calls.  I’ve owned several styles, tried dozens more, and from my Dad’s wooden Olt call, through to my current tools I could tell stories and share tidbits about them all; many of the older calls that I have not traded or sold sit in my gun cabinets and ammo lockers, or hang dusty on lanyards in my closet.  With all that said, this piece is going to focus on the three calls that will be residing on my lanyard this coming September.  All opinions here are my own, and the companies listed below have not had any contact with me regarding their products with respect to these reviews.


Super Mag

The first truly ‘custom’ short reed goose call I ever owned was my Super Mag.  It has been the last thing a lot of geese have heard since I started using it in 2005.  For years before I made the plunge into the custom acrylic short-reed market, I had been honing my skills on a variety of goose calls, from polycarbonate short reeds bought for $25 at the local hardware store to more elaborate flute-style calls bought online.  Those calls were important in learning how to run a goose call and to make the requisite sounds needed for hunting, but they all lacked ‘something’.  Some did not have enough high-note snap to be effective on windy days, while others lacked precision and realistic tone on the low moans and lay-down calls needed to finish geese close in.


The second I took the Super Mag out of its package, I could tell it had three things going for it.  First, it was sexy looking, with a polished silver band wrapped around amber acrylic that shared its colour with a well-aged bourbon.  Second, I could tell that it was solidly made by someone who hunted geese; simple minimalist lines fit comfortably in the hand and it was well-balanced.  Third, and most important, it sounded like a real goose.  For the first time I had a call that could flat out scream on a windy day, but was subtle enough to work low end moans and growls for when the birds were just about to commit.

It took a lot of practice to re-learn how to blow a short-reed goose call, but luckily it also came with a cassette tape (it was 2005 after all) with instructions from Tim Grounds and his son, Hunter.  If it had a downfall, my only complaint about the Super Mag was that it took (and still does take) a lot of air to get it running correctly.  The reed is set up quite stiff, and while this does make for absolutely realistic low end calling and crisp, snappy honks and clucks, you need to work hard if you need to run it consistently for a long time. That said, Tim & Hunter Grounds will custom tune any call you send them, and I won’t ever forget the day I came home from work and found a message from Tim himself on my home answering machine.  I had sent my call to them because I had managed to crack the reed near the end of the 2010 hunting season. That evening I was like a star-eyed fanboy when I called him back and we talked for ten minutes about the call and how I wanted it tuned with the new reed.  The call has been money ever since, and I’m now obsessive about my reeds and ensuring they are taken of.

On a personal note, this call is still my go-to, both because you never forget your first and because it is just a blue-collar workaholic call.  I have had bloody hands on it, it has been scratched and worn, I’ve used it on freezing winter mornings, and I even slammed it in a car door once.  It has character and it still sounds great.

Tim Grounds Championship Calls

PO Box 359, 14331 Prosperity Road

Johnson City, Illinois


Phone:  (618) 983-5649


The Goose Noose

During the 2014 off-season, I resolved to get my hands on a nice wooden short reed goose call, primarily because we had taken to hunting water now and then and I felt that the acrylic Super Mag created an unwanted echo.  I tried calls from Zink, Buck Gardner, and RNT before I found this hidden gem at my local (and newly-opened) Cabela’s store.

From the second I started blaring on it in the aisles at the store, I noticed that it had a dimension that my Super Mag did not have.  It was mellow, smooth, a little bit understated but truly goosey, especially on the moans and low end calls.  It still could run at some pretty high volumes, but while the Super Mag could plead and scream with ease and only worked the nice low end calls with some serious back-pressure, this call moaned and barked with less air and less back pressure, and even though the spit-notes and hail calls came out with a more mellow tone, it took a fraction of the air that my Tim Grounds call used.


I had not heard of Lynch Mob Calls before that day, so I went home and did a bit of research.  Satisfied with what I found, the next day I was back buying the call, and I began obsessively practicing on it.  I found YouTube clips, I looked for articles, and I ran it nightly.  Lynch Mob Calls has since replaced this model with one they call the Game Over, so in a way I guess I do have a bit of a collector’s item on my hands.

What can I say about this call?  It has great mid-to-low end tone and on calm days or over water it is deadly.  After huffing for nearly a decade on my Super Mag it took some practice to scale back the airflow so that I did not overblow it on honk, clucks, or comeback calls, but once that was mastered this call runs slick, deep sounds that are ‘big goose’ all the way.  I had more success with it in the later October and early November hunts, but even in the early September season it fooled resident Canada geese often.

Lynch Mob Calls

9032 Bay Creek Road

Erie, Michigan


Phone: (734) 848-2501


Shorty Express SS (Signature Series)

I spend a lot of time in the local BassPro Shops store, and for a long time I had coveted this call.  It has clean, sharp lines, the polished band glows, and I flat out love the colour.  I did not love that it was priced in excess of $180, and I tried it over and over again on multiple trips to the store in attempts to convince my fiscally-responsible side to make the impulse purchase.  Every time I had to put it back. Then in 2014, I stopped in to BassPro on my way up to the early November deer hunt to pick up some scent eliminator for one of the guys in camp.  On a whim I cruised by the duck and goose showcase, and I was taken aback.

The call was marked down to $45.99.  I was sure it was a mistake.  I located the floor staff and asked them to take a look in their inventory system.  The price was correct, and they had one left.  So I bought it.  I was more or less done with waterfowl for the year and I was focusing on deer hunting from then out, but I noodled with it for the evenings in deer camp and then even more during the long cold lonely winter up here in Ontario.  It fell out of use for the bulk of turkey season, but I picked it up again recently and have actually been so focused on it that I have not even picked up and practiced my other two goose calls.


The Shorty SS is a dark “mallard” acrylic and it just looks downright sexy.  It has nice lines with a curvy, rounded barrel.  The insert is a little narrow in the hand for my liking but it is not uncomfortable.  In terms of its sound it falls in between the Super Mag and the Goose Noose for volume and tone.  It makes solid goose-talk from top end to bottom end requiring just slightly more air than the Goose Noose, but almost any sound can be made using less back-pressure and expenditure than with my Super Mag.  Being an acrylic call, I find that it has a tendency to slide into the ‘high’ end easily, so in the same fashion as the Goose Noose I have to use caution not to over blow it and cause it to ‘squeal’, but it barks and double-clucks like nobody’s business.  I am very much looking forward to running this call on some of the resident Bruce County geese in six weeks.

Sean Mann Outdoors

555 Marlan Drive

Trappe, Maryland


Phone: 1-800-345-4539

New Turkey Toys for 2012—Mouth Call Reviews

I received an email earlier this week from a turkey hunter who was looking to get some new mouth calls, and they had read an earlier post where I had mentioned that I now owned some Woodhaven mouth calls.  They reminded me (politely) that I had promised a more in-depth review of the product which as of this week was undelivered.

Since there hasn’t been much doing around here for turkey activity (and I’ve been scouting pretty hard…but that’s another post) I thought now would be as good a time as any to post up my thoughts on these calls.  I haven’t had a chance to test these out on any turkeys yet, but I have had three months to practice with them, so consider this a mid-term review.
From L-R: Woodhaven’s Copperhead 2, Copperhead, and Red Wasp
As I alluded to earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive a Woodhaven Customs Calls TKM (Turkey Killing Machines) three pack this past Christmas.  At first glance, they are as sexy a mouth call (aesthetically) as I’ve seen.  After doing some online research that may be a bit pricey compared to some other brands of mouth calls, but according the Woodhaven’s website, professional hands touch every call so like anything, craftsmanship comes at a price.  The three calls included in the pack are the Red Wasp, the Copperhead, and the Copperhead 2.  Each is different, and each can be purchased individually (as opposed to buying the whole three-pack), so I’ll briefly share what I found each call to be like.
The Red Wasp is billed as “great for raspy cutts and yelps” and a call that is “very raspy and bold like an old hen”.  No arguments from me.  A red latex reed with a V-cut overlays two thinner clear reeds, and the tape is flexible but not too soft, which I like because I find the tape on some other mouth calls I’ve bought from the Big-Four manufacturers (HS, Primos, Knight & Hale, and Quaker Boy…I’ve owned them all) starts off a little too soft and after a couple of hunts betwixt cheek and gum the tape begins to separate from the frame or break down.  No such problems yet with the Red Wasp (or the others for that matter) and I’ve been practicing nightly for the last couple of months.  This call is set up pretty stiff and so far the reeds have retained good snap and tension.  I prefer a stiff call so out of the three, this one is my favourite so far…which was why I started with it.  If the call has a downfall it is that it is too sensitive, which is likely a function of being a bit on the stiff side.  If you have too much pressure on the reeds they tend to squeal a bit.  Too little pressure and the call gets muted or even just goes silent.  It took some getting used to, so for a mouth diaphragm beginner this call might not be suitable.  After some consistent practice though, the call goes from soft tree yelps and purrs right to the loudest, raspiest cutting pretty easily.  If you don’t like stiff calls or are just looking to start out with a mouth call then the Red Wasp might just frustrate you, but if you already have some know-how running a mouth call, this one is probably the most versatile of the three in the pack.
To be blunt, the Copperhead is probably my least favourite call in this pack, but it is still as good, or better, than most mouth calls I’ve had.  The call has an orange latex reed with a silky finish and a snake-tongue cut that is laid over two clear reeds.  Again, I love the tape job, but what I dislike about the call (the only negative really) is that it is a uni-tasker; I find it to be an ultra-loud call with serious rasp and good cutting and this is probably ideal for shocking a distant tom into gobbling, calling to a fired up and aggressive tom, or on windy days.  In fact, I’ll very likely use it in those exact scenarios this season, but I find it tough to change volumes on and I think it is the worst at purring of the three, which is less than ideal for those situations where you need some subtle ‘finishing’ calls.  I’m not a fan of switching out mouth calls when a bird is coming in, and although I’ll do it, I’m also not big on carrying two calls in my mouth at once.  If you’ve mastered subtlety on this call, then good for you.  I haven’t yet.  Also somewhat troubling, but not really a big deal yet, is that the bottom clear reed has started to pucker already.  This is likely a factor of the tongue pressure I find I’m using to ratchet up the raspiness on this call making it an operator problem not a call problem per se, and it has not yet been detrimental to the call’s sound so like I said, no big deal…just worth noting if you’re like me and exert a lot of pressure and wind on a call.  Yes, I sometimes call loud and I almost always call often.  If volume is all you’re looking for than the Copperhead will be great for you.
According to the product specs, The Copperhead 2 “features a special yellow and orange latex combo with a new ‘snake-tongue-combo cut’” in the top reed.  The one that came with my TKM 3-pack has the combo cut and the yellow latex, but my other reeds are clear, not orange.  Don’t ask me why…Production error?  Just ran out of orange reeds?  Who knows?  I’m not too concerned though because the call still runs well.  I’ve found that the Copperhead 2 is a nice medium between the Red Wasp and the Copperhead; with a broad range of volumes and rasp the only thing that the Red Wasp does better than the Copperhead 2 is purr.  It goes from tree yelps to plain yelps to cackles smoothly.  It doesn’t purr badly, if not just a bit inconsistently, and the cutting is nice and crisp.  A good all-around call, just as stiff as the Red Wasp, but like I said, just a bit tough to get consistent purrs; it does however have the best kee-kee of all the calls in the pack so that’s a win.
So there you have it.  To say I have an embarrassment of options at my disposal this year in terms of mouth calls would be an understatement.  It’s always going to be a toss-up between the Red Wasp and Copperhead 2 for the starting job this year, but it is nice to know that on a windy day I can jack up the volume on the Copperhead.
Of course, as with most reviews, this is strictly what I’ve found.  There may be those of you out there with loyalties to other call manufacturers, or those who have had completely opposite experiences to what I’ve had with the above calls.  What will be really telling is how they fare some early morning in April or on a sunny May afternoon when I get to put the call out to a love-sick gobbler.  That will be the true litmus test of the worth of these calls, and I look forward to writing more about them here.

Practice Makes Adequate

Outside of rabbits, coyotes, and some small furbearers there are no open seasons currently on the go here in southwestern Ontario, and it has likewise taken a bitter turn to the cold side of winter.

We’d been spoiled with warmth for too long, I suppose.  I hope the deer and the turkeys benefited from the unusually mild and un-snowy winter and have stored up energy for the next six or eight weeks.
For my part though, I hope to get out for a weekend in March to call up some coyotes on the Bruce Peninsula and enjoy some good times with the guys.  I really should plan it and put it in my calendar, because having a family and working for a living is leaving less and less time for road trips.  I’ve got a cousin that hunts near the Barrie area as well…I must remind myself to convince my spouse that we need to visit her parents in the next few weeks.
So what does one do when weather, the exigencies of career and family, and closed seasons render hunting a non-option?  Well if you’re like me, you tinker with gear and you practice.  Now I have a whole post prepared about tinkering with gear, but this one is about the latter pastime: practicing.
Now some hunters practice at the gun range.  This option is not for me for two reasons.  First, there isn’t a suitable range anywhere near me…at least not one I know of.  Second, and more importantly, I shoot just adequately enough (read: terribly) and I am pretty sure that no amount of practice will make me better (read: will likely just wreak havoc on my self-esteem).  So no trips to the gun range for me.
Other hunters hit the woods and scout, cut trail, and generally familiarize themselves more intimately with the terrain and geography of their preferred hunting locales.  This is something I have been doing a little bit of as I’ve been popping out now and then to the local county forests in the hopes of finding some ‘honey-hole’ that no one else knows about.  No such luck yet, and gauging by the number of other boot tracks I’ve seen, many other locals have the same idea.
So that leaves me with practicing my calling, a hobby that I truly relish.  Lately I’ve been down honing my craft in the realms of coyote calling and turkey calling.  This past Christmas I made off like a bandit with some new calls and my basement has been filled with all manner of racket. 
From my brother I received a 3-pack of coyote calls, and I can say without question that everyone in the house (except me) hates these things.  The calls each have a different level of rasp & volume, but they share the trait that they all make the unholiest of noises.  My wife cringes, my son puts his hands over his ears and shouts at me to stop, and my wife’s cat loses her mind and begins literally climbing the walls.  I can’t say that I ‘like’ the sounds myself, but they do sound good (which is an entirely relative concept when it comes to rabbit and rodent distress calls).  I really want to test them out on some coyotes.
But the figurative holy grail that I seek all winter is the opening of turkey season, and the good thing about my holy grail, is that I eventually find it every year.  But before I get there, I sit in my basement, watch turkey hunting videos, and practice my calling.  This year I scored a three-pack of mouth calls from Woodhaven Custom Calls at Christmastime and all I can say is “wow”.
I’d heard great things around the internet about Woodhaven calls, and having tried mine out for a couple of very noisy weeks, I agree with all the good I’ve heard.  As mouth diaphragms go, I’ve been using what one internet forum user called “production” calls…basically the ones the big name companies like Hunters Specialties, Knight & Hale, or Primos would make.  These are all quality call companies, but having used calls from all of them I can agree that the mouth calls do seem a bit mass-produced and not particularly unique.  Absolutely worth using, but not quite to the par that I’ve found the Woodhaven calls to be.  I find these new calls do seem to require a little more air control to run, which probably is not for everyone, but once I was able to get the air flow down I fell in love with these calls.  A more thorough review may be forthcoming, I’m still getting the hang of purrs and and kee-kees down with these, but still absolutely top drawer calls.  The cuts and yelps these things churn out are dag-nasty, and they cluck so realistically and easily that I’m unlikely to buy any other mouth calls for a good long time.
But all the practice in the world probably won’t cure my desire to over call, call too loud, and then be unable to sit still long enough to have any turkey hunting (or coyote hunting) success.
But still hopes springs eternal so here I sit, tapping away at a computer with a Woodhaven Red Wasp betwixt cheek and gum, trying to get the purr down and working on my tree call.  My wife says I’m sick, and I’m just starting to believe her.