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Fight the Ice on Your Next Duck Hunt

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John Amico: "Fighting Ice" in Flooded Timber

John Amico is a professional retriever trainer (Deep Fork Kennals, Choctaw, Oklahoma), and he gets out frequently during duck season to give his pupils some hunting experience. When heavy rain falls over this state, Amico and his buddies head up the Deep Fork or Salt Fork River to look for ducks working into flooded green timber. They boat in, then abandon their boat and wade into the woods to holes where ducks are alighting.

This strategy works fine until a freeze comes. "Ice can form in the shallow backwaters overnight," Amico explains, "but that doesn't necessarily mean the ducks abandon the timber. Instead, at least for a couple of days, they'll return to the same holes where they've been feeding. If we get there first and break the ice out of the hole, many times they'll drop in with little hesitation."

Amico says the secret to opening a good hole is breaking out the perimeter first, then sliding large free-floating sheets of ice underneath ice that's still intact around the hole. "Big chunks are easier to move and slide under. If you break the ice into little pieces, they're harder to clear out of the hole. So work slowly, try to keep those big pieces together, and get the hole as ice-free as you can."

Amico says it's not necessary to break out a large hole when hunting in flooded timber, but he likes to have an opening large enough to allow ducks to work into the prevailing wind. Also, he puts out only 12-15 decoys in such a hole, setting them around the upwind edge of the hole.

"I always use a jerk string in this situation," Amico adds. "I rig one decoy so it'll tip up and bob. Unless the wind's really gusting, you need this movement and ripples on the water's surface to convince circling ducks that the decoys are real."

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