By Paul Wait, Delta Waterfowl Editor
Powering Through Timber
January 14, 2013
It should surprise absolutely no one that Jim Ronquest regularly coaxes nervous mallards down through the flooded treetops.
When you hunt with a world champion duck caller — Ronquest won the title in 2006 — the quacks, chuckles and urgent comeback calls are supposed to bring backpedaling wings fluttering to the water in the timber hole.
I've had the honor and good fortune to hunt with several excellent duck callers over the years, but hunting with a champion is a rare treat.
Ronquest certainly didn't disappoint. The mallards were in, and despite dealing with a nasty head cold that made it challenging for Ronquest to continuously chatter with circling ducks, he convinced several flocks of mallards to drop though the trees to waiting hunters in late December near the world-famous duck and rice capital of Stuttgart, Ark.
The early ducks were seemingly easy to lure, but once brighter daylight overtook the woods, working mallards became skittish. As our success waned, one hunter in the group suggested we move to the other side of the hole, putting the sun over our shoulders. The other side provided a few more large trees to hide behind, too.
"I think we need to try it," Ronquest said. "The ducks are picking us out over here."
We scrambled to reset. Our mid-morning strategy adjustment helped better conceal a large group of hunters and a couple of cameramen. And as we hoped, Ronquest, director of public relations and broadcast production for RNT Calls, again pulled mallards into the decoys for easy thunder from the shotgun crew.
After the morning flight tapered to an occasional single mallard, the hunt's focus switched to the second goal of our trip: Testing out new boats.
Clay Connor, marketing director for Xpress Boats, had arranged for the hunt to include serious use of a pair of camouflaged duck boats. With RNT-V cameras rolling, Ronquest skillfully zipped through the timber in an Xpress Bayou 18V model powered by a 35 horsepower mud motor.
From my view next to a giant oak tree, Ronquest looked as though he was having as much fun spraying water in the woods as he had talking mallards into shotgun range. I can tell you this: I had fun watching both shows in Arkansas, and can't wait to do it all over again.