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If you could just teach me to chuckle!

by Jim James - Owner of Carlson Championship Calls and 1996 World Duck Calling Champion

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I've been formally teaching waterfowlers how to operate calls for over 15 years. I've literally worked one-on-one with thousands of guys. That's not counting those I've worked with over the phone and with which I've exchanged tapes all these years. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the plea, "If you could just teach me to chuckle!" Guys have called me on the phone simply to just ask me to demonstrate a feed chuckle. There is something almost magical about the sound that seems to mesmerize duck hunters.

The truth of the matter is that the feed call…or chuckle…is probably the most misunderstood call the duck hunter can utilize in the field. The High Ball…or Hail Call…gets the attention of those distant ducks. The Hen Mallard Greeting is the "true duck language". The Comeback Call will often turn those leaving ducks. But…and there's always a "but"…the Feed Call…or Feed Chuckle…has probably actually called very few ducks to decoys over the years. Personally, I use it quite a bit while hunting. I consider it background music. The Chuckle is a "filler" that allows me to keep calling and allows me to keep making duck-like sounds, all in an attempt to keep the attention of the ducks focused on my spread and off that of my neighbors.

Let's look at the different ways to try to create this sought-after sound. Trying to keep it somewhat simple, there are the Single Cut Chuckle and the Double Cut Chuckle . The Single Cut Chuckle, as the name implies, is done with a single cut of the air stream utilizing the tip of the tongue. Here the tip of the tongue alone is used to gate the stream of air on and off. Think of the first syllable of the sound TI-CA…or TU-CA. Here we are concentrating on the TI or the TU. DI as in DI-GA also works. The tongue motion required to produce these single syllable sounds is the key to making the Single Cut Chuckle. The music, rhythm or cadence, one chooses, is really just their own art form and has nothing to do with learning the proper tongue motion and Chamber Pressure required to make the proper sound. At first many students will not produce the necessary Chamber Pressure required to really make the sound crisp. They generally are putting way too little air through the call and the resulting sound is weak and, in all honesty, not very ducky . I suggest you think in terms of being aggressive and really snap that tongue tip down off the roof of the mouth as the air pressure is built and held behind it.

My years of experience has taught me that the average person can learn the proper tongue configuration and motion, as well as the corresponding required Chamber Pressure to become more than adequate with the Single Cut Chuckle.

The Double Cut Chuckle is a whole different animal! This requires a double cut of the air stream utilizing both the tip of the tongue and the back of the tongue arch. Here the tip of the tongue first drops from the roof of the mouth to create the first cut followed immediately by the arch of the tongue dropping from the rear of the mouth roof to form the second cut….and then repeated again and again to get what some call the "rolling feed call". For the Double Cut Chuckle think of the sounds TI-CA, TU-CA or DI-GA. Practice saying them slowly and without your call to better try to learn the motion involved and the tongue configuration necessary to properly perform what many refer to as a "rocking motion." The same requirement exists for proper Chamber Pressure as with the Single Cut Chuckle to avoid that weak non-ducky sound mentioned earlier.

I'd be lying if I said I never used the Double Cut Chuckle in the field, but more often than not it's the Single Cut Chuckle that I utilize while working ducks. A good solid Single Cut Chuckle, interspersed with good quacks and the deadly Hen Mallard Greeting , is all you'll really ever need to call and work ducks.

"But I want to learn that Double Cut Chuckle!"

After teaching so many guys how to chuckle and working with them over the years, I have reached some conclusions that I believe are sound. I've seen lots of people struggle trying to learn the Double Cut Chuckle. They'll stammer, stutter, get frustrated and even cuss. But every now and then a student will pick up his call and Double Cut Chuckle like a banshee. Without exception, the other students will turn and their mouths will drop! What is it that makes one guy able to do the Double Cut Chuckle so naturally while the other guy literally ties his tongue in a knot trying to achieve that elusive sound? While I have no scientific proof, I'm convinced that it's a genetic thing. I'm convinced that some guys have the necessary genetic makeup that allows for their tongues to perform that rocking motion naturally. Some people can curl or roll their tongues, and others can't. Again, it's a genetic thing that allows for one to do this while the other cannot. It's one of the reasons why one gets so frustrated not only trying to learn the Double Cut, but also the person trying to teach it. What comes so easy to one but so hard to another takes us right back to the old "maker 'er sound like this" approach to learning to operate a call. The one who can Double Cut naturally is just as mystified at to why his buddy cannot, as the buddy is at how he can!

Genes aside, there is hope for those that simply do not have the genetic makeup that will allow that double-cut rocking motion to occur naturally. I should know, for I was one that wasn't blessed with the natural ability and had to work extremely hard to learn the needed motion. The answer lies in the understanding of the motion, the practicing of the motion slowly, and the training of the tongue muscle to perform the needed motion. One key is the word "slow". Practice the motion slowly. TI-CA TI-CA TI-CA…TU-CA TU-CA TU-CA…DI-GA DI-GA DI-GA. In the beginning practice without the call in order to better feel and sense the tongue configuration and the rocking motion. Do not get in a hurry and rush the process. For some it has taken years to get the tongue trained and the rocking motion ingrained. Others picked it up quicker. When you do finally put the call to your mouth keep the same slow practice routine . Speed only comes later on, and with lots and lots of meaningful practice.
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