We drove to a marked public access site and got out in the predawn murk. The air was full of the sounds of mallards quacking, splashing, chuckling. Hundreds of birds were packed into a shallow cattail-rimmed pothole no more than a quarter mile long. We loaded the decoys, guns, and dogs into the boat and pushed out across the open water. Waves of mallards exploded into the air ahead of us and disappeared in the distance. "Don't worry," McClelland said. "They'll be back."