As you might imagine, Phil Robertson gets to hunt some choice waterfowling areas each year. But if he could pick only hunting spot, he says it would be a place in the woods.
"There's nothing like hunting flooded timber," he states. "It's good because day in and day out, you can get ducks much closer than in an open field. You'll get them far closer far more times than you will in a field.
"More importantly," he continues, "there's a special feeling you get when you're hunting timber that you don't find anywhere else. There's just something about looking up when the sun is rising in the morning, and those big overcup oaks or cypress trees are there, and the ducks are coming down on top of you. It's not heaven, but it's as close as you'll get on earth. Heaven is endless flooded timber, all the ducks you want to shoot and no game wardens within 100 miles."
Pinpointing duck concentrations is the first step to becoming a successful timber hunter.
"When we see ducks going into the timber, we get a fix on the birds then move in," says Robertson. "We seldom hunt the same spot twice.
"The best places are what I call ‘ancestral holes.' These are openings in the timber that the ducks have flocked into for generations. It's the kind of place where maybe your grandfather hunted and your father and now you. Many of these holes are on private land, so the typical hunter may not have access. But if access is available, this is the type of spot you want to be in because sooner or later the ducks will come in that hole no matter what. You build a comfortable blind and ride it out if you have to, waiting for the ducks to show. And by the season's end, if the ducks move down from the north, you'll get them for sure."
One mistake hunters often make is giving up on a location too early. Robertson notes that even the hunting in ancestral holes is slow at times, and ducks may not show up until later in the day than expected.
"I go to my hunting place in the timber before daylight and don't worry unless the ducks haven't shown by 1 or 2 p.m.," he says. "Often, the best hunting won't start until a quarter to 10 or even later. The period I like best is from about 10 to 11:30 in the morning.
"Bluebird days—days that are clear as a bell—are the best timber-hunting days," he continues. "The wind shouldn't be howling, but I do like a prevailing wind, especially a prevailing wind out of the northwest. The ideal scenario is this. The weather has been cloudy for a week or so, and a good front comes down from the northwest. The front blows all that cloudy weather out, and the ducks ride in on the front. When it blows out and breaks clear two or three days after that, if there's high pressure, this is the very best hunting time, especially about mid-morning each day."