Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Successful calling: one of waterfowling’s greatest pleasures

Red Wing, Minn. It’s 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and this sleepy
little Mississippi River town is, well, fast asleep.


Jake Gilbertson, 21, of Red Wing, already has been awake for a
half hour, loading his gear for a goose hunt 50 minutes down the
road in Rochester.

There are a few universal truths about waterfowling that must be
understood: that rising early is mandatory, that most waterfowlers
find a perverse pleasure in rising early, and that the
conscientious objectors among us (nonhunters) think we’re crazy for
rising early.

“People ask me why I get up so early just to hunt geese,” said
Gilbertson, who has been hunting waterfowl for four years. “I tell
them if you haven’t done it, you’ll never understand.

There’s just something about an early-morning sunrise, geese on
the move, that, you know, is special.”

And: “I just love to fool geese with my call. Turning a goose
with a call, to bring it into the decoys, is what keeps me coming
back for more.”

For Gilbertson, it wasn’t enough to simply buy a goose call off
the retail rack, either. He has, in fact, done that many times
over, amassing an ensemble of 50 calls. No, he wanted to make his
own goose call, to see if his design could coax a gander into
shotgun range.

Ten months ago, Gilbertson started this laborious,
trial-and-error process. The end result was an acrylic, short-reed
Canada goose call that is every bit as sweet and seductive as any
call on the market today.

And, make no mistake, the market is saturated with calls and
callmakers. An Internet search using the words “goose calls” netted
64,000 hits. Another search this time using “Canada goose calls”
yielded 14,000 hits.

“There are a lot of calls out there right now,” said Gilbertson,
who is works for his father as a plumber. “It’s a tough market to
crack. I’m hoping to sell a few calls by word of mouth, maybe get a
few guides using it, and then hopefully get them into a few

I’ve had some calls, but I’ve only sold a handful right now. But
that’s OK.”

A quick bit of history: As goose numbers in recent years
exploded throughout the Midwest, hunting guides, among others,
started developing their own calls to supplement their income.
First came the flute call, which is generally cheap, typically made
of wood, and softer in sound. Then came a multitude of acrylic
calls, which are now all the rage in goose hunting circles.

“Acrylic is extremely dense plastic, which makes for a durable
call and that’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular.”
Gilbertson said. “And unlike wooden calls, acrylic doesn’t swell
and shrink, so the sound is always crisp and clean and easy to hit
a wide range of notes when you’re calling.”

Perhaps most important, Gilbertson said, acrylic goose calls
require less air volume, which makes for easier calling. “Flute
calls take a lot more air, and that can get tough after a while,”
he said. “They’re still really good calls, but, for me, it’s just a
matter of preference.”

Gilbertson’s line of calls GiliGanz Goose Calls are made on a
lathe. Once he figured out the precise dimensions of the call a bit
of engineering ingenuity the rest was relatively easy. “I have a
machinist that helps me, and basically you program the lathe, which
is nothing more than pressing a couple buttons,” he said.

After that, things get a little tricky. Each call has a mouth
piece, a tone board, a reed and a wedge or what Gilbertson says is
the “guts of the call.” All are held together by an insert, around
which, on the outside of the call, goes a brash or aluminum

Each piece must fit together seamlessly, and the reed must be
tuned to Gilbertson’s high standards.

“After the pieces are put together, I spend a fair amount of
time polishing the calls so they look real good,” he said. “A lot
of guys collect acrylic calls, so looks are important.”

To bolster their aesthetic appeal, Gilbertson’s calls come in
seven colors: dark green, light green, yellow, watery blue,
bourbon, smoke, and lavender. Each costs $125, a price that’s
consistent with other acrylic calls on the market. He’s also
developing a logo that will be engraved on each call a classy bit
of artistry. And, when he finds time between work, volunteering for
the local fire department, and raising his 1-year-old daughter, not
to mention hunting, he may try his hand at developing a

duck call.

“Acrylic calls are more expensive, but you get what you pay
for,” he said. “You can go out a buy $15 call, and many of them are
good, but there not as durable, don’t have the appearance, and
don’t sound nearly as good.”

On this early Sunday morning a couple weeks back, the Rochester
bean field we hunted was, in the military parlance of the day, a
target-rich environment. Eleven of us shot 21 geese by 9:30 a.m. a
hunt that happens only when the waterfowl Gods smile and the
planets align.

“I couldn’t believe the day we had,” he said. “That was the best
hunt I’ll probably see in a long, long time.”

Most satisfying, however, was listening to Gilbertson, along
with two other expert goose crooners, mimicking the mellow clucks
of Canada geese. No fewer than 300 birds worked our spread of eight
dozen decoys another welcomed waterfowling rarity.

“It takes a long time and a lot of practice to become a decent
caller, let along a good one,” Gilbertson said. “I’ve listened to a
lot of audio cassettes over and over. Sometimes when I’m driving
down the road I put one in and start calling. You wouldn’t believe
the looks I get when I’m doing that.”

Such is the life of a goose caller they of early mornings,
quizzical looks and a few birds in the bag. Callmaker Jake
Gilbertson can be reached at either (651) 385-8373 or (651)

Tori J. McCormick is a freelance outdoors writer living in Red
Wing. He can be reached via email at

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