Waterfowl hunters who have cut their teeth hunting swamps and small bodies of water for puddle ducks shouldn’t expect to have the same success on big-water, diving ducks without changing calling techniques, according to Carlton Tompkins of Capt. Froggy’s Guide Service.

Tompkins does most of his damage on redheads, bluebills, buffleheads and a number of other species in the Pamlico Sound near Englehard, and he said it’s often a case of “less is more” when putting a duck call to your lips.

“My general rule is, the closer they are, the lighter you call. If ducks are coming, don’t call,” said Tompkins (252-661-7222). “If they’re going past, call. Maybe one time in eight you can turn them, so it’s worth it.”

Tompkins relies mostly on a mallard call, but he rarely blares out loud, long calls.

“A high-ball call doesn’t work too well out here,” he said. “If they’re circling, you can go with a feeding chuckle.

“You can get pintails and widgeon to decoy to a mallard call, and bluebills and redheads will react really well to mallard calls – so will gadwalls and shovellors. Sea ducks? They don’t give a rat’s but about calls. If they’re coming, they’re coming.”

The only time Tompkins really changes tactics is on calm days. Without much wind, he said he can use a pintail whistle to bring in pintails or widgeon, but calm days on the sound are few and far between.

Most times, Tompkins said, calling works better on small knots of diving ducks, but if a huge flock of redheads passes by within calling range – a common occurrence on the sound – he’ll call to them, hoping to break off a few birds from the main body.

“If you see a big wad of redheads going by, sometimes you can break off six, seven or eight of them,” he said.