When an Open Reed Call “Sticks”

By Bob Robb

Open-reed mouth calls are some of the most easy-to-use and true sounding calls a hunter can use. I use them often, for everything from calling coyotes to cow calling elk, and love their simplicity and authentic sounds.

There is one problem with them, though—the reed tends to “stick” before or during a calling sequence, the result being either a horrible screeching noise, or no sound at all. Why does the reed stick? Sometimes it is due to extreme cold, sometimes a design issue, but usually it is from excessive moisture inside the reed assembly. This “sticking” is not to be confused with over-blowing a call, causing the reed to “lock” down—a subject for discussion another time.

When you blow an open-reed mouth call, moisture is introduced between the reed and tone board, which can cause the reed to “stick” to the tone board. This is true whether the call is of an open reed or closed reed design. This occurs for several reasons. Some people blow a call “wet”, that is, they introduce more moisture from their mouth/breath than someone else. This is a condition which is almost impossible to rectify. Extreme cold can also cause moisture in the call to freeze, sticking the reed. It is a good idea in extreme temperatures to try to keep the call inside your coat to keep it as warm as possible. It is difficult to keep a closed reed call from freezing if the ambient temperature is extremely low. If it is cold enough and there is moisture inside the call, it is subject to sticking, period.

When your open-reed call sticks, there are a few methods you can use to quickly get it back in operation. The first option is to turn the call around and blow through the bell. This is effective in many instances as it forces the moisture out the intake end and many times will clear the call. This can work on both open and closed reeds.

Another trick for open reeds is gently place the tip of your finger under the front edge of the reed, being extremely careful not to bend or crease the reed, and “flick” it upwards. Do this two or three times while blowing backwards through the call from the bell end. I like to point the call down while doing this as gravity helps the call to drain. Be sure to wipe the moisture off the tone board after using this method. Most times this will get the call operating properly.

Regardless, when using these calls I like to have at least two at the ready. I keep one in a shirt or inside pocket near my body to keep it warm, and rotate the calls regularly. Unfortunately, an occasional occurrence of reed sticking is a fact of life when using this type of call. All you can do is quickly fix the problem and get back to it!

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