Making Your Own Ecaller
By Chris Hustad
It’s hard to believe that another spring season is around the corner. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was preparing for my first spring season, an exciting opportunity to persue my favorite gamebird, the snow goose. Like all types of outdoor activities, the spring season has evolved with a boatload of new gear to help you make your hunting easier and more successul. But nothing has changed my hunting more than the use of the ecaller.
I can still remember the first time I used mine. I purchased a popular portable tape player and purchased a “snow goose feeding” tape. I cannot remember the manufacturer of that first tape, but it did an alright job for the time. This player was like magic. With the push of a button it would lock up their wings like I just rang the dinner bell. I grew up persuing this wary bird in my earliest fall memories and I can tell you that in certain situations geese just won’t look at your decoy spread, let alone migrating snow geese. But with the spring season, coupled with an ecaller we would get every bird to take a look. Now taking a look and decoying are two different scenarios, but the sign of locked wings circling at 400 yards on our spread was something I’ve never experienced in the fall. And I can’t stress the importance of the ecaller for making that happen.
A lot has changed since that tape player. I still have it, and bring it along “just in case” but I’ve moved on to newer, better technology. These days, volume isn’t as important as it used to be, clarity and realism has taken precedance. The snow goose has evolved and caught on to the use of ecallers, and like decoys, concealment, etc. you either evolve with them or you’re left behind.
Nowadays, the buzz is all about CD players and MP3 players. I don’t know many who’ve moved into MP3 players, but the comfort knowing that it’ll never skip is the main reason for it’s use. But since we built our own, I will never look back. For a reasonable investment, you can create an amazing 4-speaker unit that’ll give you what you need for spring snows.
Now I’m not going to take all the credit for the unit described in this article, I was assisted by Jed “gandergrinder” Fluhrer who came up with idea of the case and Zach “Decoyer” Herrmann who created the mounting supports and speaker boxes.
The first step in your search of the “better ecaller” is to decide on the components you’ll want to use. And nothing is more important than the CD deck. Now of course, any deck can work, but I recommend purchasing one with a built-in amplifier. You could certainly use an external stand-alone amp, but if you’re unfamiliar with what you’re doing you could end up blowing your speakers. I witnessed this first hand with my hunting partner’s unit when I was hunting in Nebraska a few springs back.
I chose to use a CD deck that had a built-in 240 watt amp with 60-watts per channel. I also chose one that had a remote control, which at times was a VERY handy feature. Since I planned on using 4 speakers this seemed sufficient.
The next step was deciding on the speakers. This is a big decision as well, as there are a lot of options out there. Since we were building two units, we chose different routes with each. One unit was built using 30-watt outdoor speakers. The other unit was built with 125-watt stereo speakers. The 30-watts speakers were louder, higher pitched and wasn’t as draining on the battery than the latter. The 125-watt speakers were considerably loud, but most importantly, it had the bass that no outdoors speaker can replicate. If you’ve ever been up close to a large flock of feeding snows, you know there’s a constant deep pitched “murmur” (feeding noises) that can be hard to pick out from long distances. The 125-watt speakers, coupled with our CD that produced those murmers were deadly for up close birds in the field.
Once the deck and speakers were decided, next you’ll look into the components, case and battery.
I had originally planned on using my 12-amp batteries from my other electronic units, but we changed and went with a small, deep cycle battery which was a good decision. Keep in mind you’ll need one that’ll fit in your toolbox or whatever case you choose to use. Depending on where you hunt, in my neck of the woods lugging around a large, heavy battery was the last thing I wanted to do.
We next chose to use a hard plastic toolbox as the carrying case. This way it could fit the deck, battery and all components. The speakers would carry separetely. With spring hunting, or any hunting for that matter, you never know what type of weather you’ll expectSo we had to create a unit that would stay dry and could be used in any types of weather. So what we did was built a wooden frame in the toolbox that not only held the battery steady in place,
but also elevated the deck off the bottom in case any moisture got into the case. And to accommodate the remote control, we cut out the section of the box where the deck was facing, and inserted and caulked plexiglass in place. This would allow the remote control to be used from a distance without getting out of my blind. Being able to control the volume as the birds get close is important, and to save battery life and your sanity is also important. I say sanity jokingly of course. If you’ve ever spent the entire day listening to a snow goose CD you know what I’m talking about.
A couple other features we added to the box was with the mount, the connections and on the outside. For the mount, we added velcro to the base of the wood, and to the bottom of the deck. This not only kept the deck in place, but would allow it to be removed if necessary. On the connections, we had to plan carefully.
Keep in mind that keeping moisture out was extremely important, and we didn’t want to cut this corner. So we drilled holes in the back of the case, just big enough for the cable to get through but not big enough to also allow moisture. And I used velcro to keep them stable. Using velcro is optional, but I’ve found it to be handy. Now there are a few ways to connect the wiring and clamps, but I highly recommend getting your hands on a soldering gun. This will produce solid connections that’ll last.And I also recommend building the connections so that they “slide together” for a solid hold and can be removed easily when you’re day is done. And finally, for the exterior. I stapled elastic strips along all the sides and the top (we did this to the speakers as well). This allowed me to stuff surrounding vegatation to conceal
the case like the modern field blinds of today.
And the only thing you need now is the CD. Be very careful, there are a lot of poorly produced CD’s on the market. I’ve purchased around a dozen or so tapes and CD’s over the years and there’s really only 2 I recommend personally. The first is the “Shoot ‘Em in the Lips” CD, by Hunting Snows and the other is the “Snow Talker” CD by Performance Calls. If you have a CD-burner, I recommend making a backup or 2 before you hit the field. A skip in your CD will cause a lot of headaches in the field, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The final steps are optional, depending on what you purchased. It just so happened that the speakers I purchased were pink, so I used Krylok Ultra Flat Black spray paint to paint it entirely black.
For the 125-watt stereo speakers, the speaker boxes were built out of left over wood around the shop. You could certainly purchase these if stereo speakers are the route you choose, but that’s of course up to you.
Now is this the only way to create a good ecaller? Heck no! You’ll probably come up with your own ideas, your own options, your own customization. “Face” one of the members on Nodak Outdoors built his Ecaller out of a full body snow goose decoy. This ingenious idea is just what I’m talking about with customizations, so have fun with it. Remember you should be building a unit to last.
If you’ve created your own Ecaller and would like to share you ideas, I’d love to see it! You can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CD Player (w/ built-in amp)
Hard Plastic Toolbox
4 speakers (we used both 30-watt outdoor speakers as well as 125-watt stereo speakers)
Deep cycle battery
Soldering gun (optional but recommended)
Black Spray paint