Tuning a Goose Call
By Chad “diver_sniper” Haabala
Ahhh Spring time. It’s wonderful isn’t it? The birds are coming back, the kids are able to play in the yard again without getting frostbitten, Gramps can finally get back on that lawn mower that’s been teasing him for months now. But if you’re like me, there’s really only one thing on your mind, early goose season. Sure, there’s fishing to be done and vacations to be taken, but for the die hard waterfowler the next season always seems to be one if his/her primary thoughts.
So what can be done at this time of year to prepare for the season when it still seems so far away? The answer to that is simple; practice on your short reed goose call. From the first timer to the expert, everyone should be fine tuning their skills and developing new ones all year round to be sure they give their best performance come opening day.
The topic I want to go over with you right now is how to tune that call up just right so that you are getting maximum effectiveness out of it. I must say one thing first though. There are three reasons for you to ever take your goose call apart. First, because it is dirty and is no longer preforming properly. Second, it has been thoroughly used since you purchased it and is no longer in tune. And finally, because you are getting better on the call and you think that you can improve the sound you get out of it by re-tuning it. If you don’t fit into any of these categories, I urge that you leave your call be. A call will always come to you from the manufacturer tuned. If you are still learning, it is most likely you that needs tweaking, not your call. With that said, lets begin.
- You’ll want to know what each part is before tuning your goose call.
The first thing to remember is what each piece of your call is called, and what it does. The barrel is the tube that you blow through. The insert is the other tube that holds the reed assembly in place, and slides into the barrel when fully assembled. The reed is the thin plastic piece that is responsible for the noises that come out of the call. The tone board is the longer plastic piece that the reed sits on. The wedge is the shorter plastic piece that helps hold the reed tightly in place on the tone board. Each part is just as important as the next, because if one of them is broken or not doing it’s job, the entire call is practically worthless.
If you have never taken a call apart before, you may want to use a marker to mark where all the of the individual pieces are before you go any farther. By doing this you can avoid a lot of head ache if you have trouble when it comes time to put it back together.
The first step is to get all the pieces separated. And remember, this is the point of no return, you must be confident that you really want to take your call apart. So, to do this, take the insert into your hand so that the reed assembly is pointed up towards the sky. Now take your thumb and place it on the top of the tone board. Gently press down with your thumb, pushing the parts down into the insert. They should let loose and be easy to pick out of the call.
Next you will want to take all of the parts and thoroughly wash them in warm soapy water. Note that if your call is made out of wood you will not want to wash the barrel and the insert in water. Doing this could cause them to absorb water which could jeopardize the call going back together correctly. Once you have done this, allow the parts to dry.
Now the tricky part, putting it back together. Place the reed on the tone board so that the tip of the reed can freely dip down into the tone channel. This is very important, if the reed cant dip down, the call won’t break over when you blow it. The closer the reed is to the beginning of the tone channel the more responsive the call will be. But as I said, it can not catch on anything, or you will have problems. It is also crucial that the reed is perfectly centered on the tone board. You don’t want it to be able to dip farther into the tone channel one one side than the other.
Now place the wedge so that it is the same distance back from the front of the tone board as it was when you took it apart. Be aware that one end of the wedge will be tapered downward slightly, this is the end that will go into the insert. Now clamp the wedge tightly into place with your thumb and your pointer finger and begin to slide it back into the insert. Once you’ve done this, finish pushing the reed assembly in by turning your hand over so that your thumb is on the reed and your pointer finger is on the bottom of the tone board. Now slide the insert back into the barrel and see how it sounds.
It may take a few tries before you get it to sound just right, which is ok, it’s a very sensitive thing. If any piece of the reed assembly is off even a fraction of an inch it could cause the call to sound “off”.
Now, if you’ve got everything under control so far, we can take a look into a few of the more advanced tweaks to make your call preform differently. To get your call higher pitched, you can push the reed and the tone board slightly deeper into the insert. This means that less of the reed will be visible. Another thing you can do for a slightly higher pitch is to simply push the whole reed assembly a little bit deeper into the insert, this will cause the reed to be held in place more firmly, making it a little bit more responsive.
If you’re looking for a deeper sound you can do just the opposite of the last paragraph. Expose more reed, and/or loosen the reed assembly. However, remember that doing this will make the call a little harder to blow. It will take more air and will be less responsive. A deeper call may sound better, but it won’t quite be as fast, it all depends on your taste.
Still not satisfied? Ok, lets talk about reed shaving. This is another one of those things you will want to be very very careful with. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to shave their reed unless they have extra back up reeds laying around in case the one being shaved gets ruined. The tools used are typically a razor blade if you want to take a decent amount off of the reed, or a fingernail file if you are just trying to get a very small finishing detail. Only shave the side of the reed that does not come into contact with the tone board. If you want to make the call break easier you can shave the part of the reed that reaches out the farthest from the wedge. To make the call harder to break over shave the area back by the wedge. If you decide to shave your reed please be sure to only do it tiny bits at a time. It’s easy to take more off, but you can’t un-shave it.
On a final note, the best idea for any goose caller is to not take their calls apart any more often than they really need to. Every time you change the tune you have to re-adjust to the call, which basically means you have to re-learn all of the things that you could do before the call was tinkered with. You will progress much faster if you keep practicing on a call that operates the same way every time you pick it up. With that said, if you do plan to take your call apart, well before season is the best time to do it, because in the event that you can’t get it tuned in correctly, there is time to find someone who can help you. You can also send most higher end custom calls into the call maker along with a few bucks and a description of how you want it to sound, and they will take care of it for you.
Hopefully this has been a helpful tutorial, if you ever have any problems try jumping on the goose forums for help. Just describe your issue and I’m sure the guys and myself will offer any and all advice that we can. Thanks for reading and good hunting!