Find a Flooded-tim­ber Hotspot

Some of the best duck hunting in the South is wide open to the pub­lic

Outdoor Life - - WILD AMERICA - By John Gor­don

Call­ing down mi­grat­ing mal­lards into Arkansas’ leg­endary flooded green tim­ber is a bucket-list hunt for any se­ri­ous wa­ter­fowler. And you don’t need an ex­pen­sive duck lease or a mem­ber­ship to a fancy club to get in on the ac­tion. Arkansas is home to thousands of acres that are open to pub­lic duck hunting. Places like Bayou Meto Wildlife Man­age­ment Area (33,832 acres), Cache River Na­tional Wildlife Refuge (68,993 acres), and Black River WMA (25,000 acres) have sto­ried pasts and con­tinue to pro­vide ex­cel­lent duck hunting to­day. But you’ve got to put the work in first.

Log In

Dig­i­tal maps and GPS will show you prop­erty lines, to­pog­ra­phy, and, most im­por­tant, holes in the tim­ber. Your goal in th­ese on­line scout­ing ses­sions is to find open­ings in the flooded tim­ber where ducks are likely to land. But a good hole doesn’t need to be very large—about 100 yards wide is ideal. And the hole doesn’t even need to be com­pletely clear. Ducks will drop down through the tree limbs. Also, mon­i­tor river lev­els closely. The tim­ber floods when rivers over­flow their banks. With a higher flood stage, more area will be cov­ered by wa­ter, and more holes in the tim­ber will be ac­ces­si­ble. But if the wa­ter level is too high, ducks won’t hold in the tim­ber at all. Zero in on back­wa­ter edges of the flood.

Boat In

Now it’s time to put your boat in the wa­ter. State lands in Arkansas re­quire that ev­ery­one is off the prop­erty by noon (even if you’re not hunting). That means you’ve got to sac­ri­fice a morn­ing hunt for a scout­ing mis­sion. En­ter the area an hour after shoot­ing time to avoid bump­ing into other hun­ters. Find a block of woods away from ev­ery­one else and qui­etly wade in with the boat. Watch for ducks work­ing and try to pin­point ex­actly where they’re feed­ing. Once you’ve found the X, hunt it the next morn­ing. Don’t wait. A hot honey hole might not last long in pub­lic tim­ber. If the hunt isn’t work­ing out as planned, be will­ing to move. Hunt where the ducks want to be. Fed­eral refuges al­low af­ter­noon ac­cess (though not all al­low hunting ev­ery day), so launch the boat in the evening and drift the main river, us­ing the mo­tor sparingly. (Cruis­ing the river on full throt­tle only blows out birds.) Watch for ducks pitch­ing down, and then start in that lo­ca­tion the next morn­ing. Acorns are the key to a good shoot in flooded tim­ber—any spot you hunt should have a mass of acorns float­ing on the sur­face. Tall white oaks pro­duce the largest mast crops, so look for those trees first. The white oak fam­ily in­cludes a va­ri­ety of sub­species such as burr and post oaks, and you should be able to iden­tify them all. Check out the bark care­fully— a white oak’s bark will be very light in color and smooth in places. Their acorns are large—about ¾ inch long— but not too large for a duck to swal­low. Find a quiet stand of old white oaks in the evening, and you’ll be cov­ered up in green­heads in the morn­ing.

The au­thor’s dad swings on a cross­ing wood duck dur­ing Wis­con­sin’s open­ing day of duck sea­son.

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