Waterfowl: How to Hunt Mallards in Flooded Timber

Illustration by Steve Sanford

There is nothing like a flooded-timber hunt when mallards pour from the heavens like rain, but sucking birds into even the best holes is rarely a given. Last year, I hunted with Jimbo Robinson at his family’s Snake Island Hunt Club near Stuttgart, Ark., where three generations of Robinsons have a combined 125 years of green-timber gunning experience. Here’s what it looks like when they get it right.

Your Place in the Sun
If possible, hunt with the sun at your back. You'll be less visible to ducks landing into the rays, and your face will be in the shadows as you carefully scan for birds. "You have to be completely concealed," says Robinson. A quartering wind also helps, diverting the ducks' focus away from your position.

Ringer Decoys
Leave the middle of the hole free, and place spinning-wing mallard decoys in the timber just off the hole, facing the wind [1]. Partially obscured by trees, the spinners will seem to appear and disappear, which looks more natural and can lend a measure of comfort. Float a few blocks on the periphery [2], and set up a jerk cord by sinking eyebolts into a tree across the hole to anchor the rigs [3].

Center of Attention
Hug a tree [4]. It's fine to kick the water to simulate the disturbance of feeding ducks, but only when birds are flying away. The biggest mistake is to look up and twist around to get an eye on working ducks. "You create a bull's-eye of rippling water with your face in the middle," Robinson says.

Take Four
When a group of birds commits, focus on the fourth duck [5] coming into the hole. Once it's in range, the first two have likely landed, the third is back-flapping for the touchdown, and No. 4 is looking for an open spot with his wings spread. Shoot when he's 10 feet above the water. Miss, and you have a chance to hit him again. Connect with the first shot, and you're in position to take the birds springing off the water.

Set the Tone

Keep two calls at the ready to bring birds in.

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Robinson pulls a double when it comes to timber calls. A Rich-N-Tone Original ($135; rntcalls.com) bites through the wind and grabs a duck's attention. The Echo DRT ($130; echocalls.com) is a softer, raspier call that settles birds down for the finish.