Do size and shape really matter? Experts from Louisiana and Missouri weigh in
Green-timber duck hunters are constantly on the lookout for the perfect spot, where ducks feel safe setting their wings and fluttering down through the canopy. But it can be tough to identify the perfect timber hole, as many considerations factor into the equation. Fortunately, veteran timber hunters Justin Martin, general manager of Duck Commander, and J.D. Driskill, owner of Dirty Rice Outfitters in Gobler, Missouri, provided their insights.
Consider the Shape
Martin doesn’t believe the configuration of a timber hole greatly affects its attractiveness to ducks, but he’s found that some shapes are better than others.
“Oblong always seems to be better than perfectly round, so ducks either have a runway for approach or escape,” he said.
“If it’s a little bit windier, you probably want to hunt a little bit more open hole,” he said. “Most natural holes — probably 80 percent of them — are elongated north and south. Most aren’t perfectly round. So you want north or south winds. Preferably, we hunt on sunny days with south winds, but we really don’t get to choose that.”
“Generally, in the South during the early season, there are still lots of leaves on the trees,” he said. “I need a place big enough for my decoys and motion to be easily seen by the ducks. It also provides safety from avian predators.”
Ducks are still in family bunches or “migrating packs” early in the season, too, so Martin hunts spots that provide sufficient room for those large groups. He also likes to give ducks “a pretty good runway” where they can filter down to the water.
“Their diets are also different that time of year,” he said. “In the early season, they’re loading up on a protein-rich diet — bugs, snails and grass seeds — while they finish molting into full breeding plumage.”
“I’ve shot them in small holes all season and big holes all season,” Driskill said. “It’s just kind of where they want to be. Toward the end of the season, they like to be in areas where there’s less pressure. Really, the size of the hole doesn’t matter as much.”
But Martin looks for smaller timber holes near thickets during the late season.
“Ducks are beginning to really pair off, and they want their privacy to do what God intended them to do,” he said. “They don’t want to be in big bunches any longer.”
He adapts his decoy spread and calling style during that period with that shift in mind.
“My calling will be much less aggressive and more subtle,” he said. “The leaves will all be gone as well, so the ducks will be able to navigate their way in to thicker cover much easier. They also get more comfortable about avoiding avian predators, because they can now see everything and can get away.”
Do Your Homework
Far more important than the shape or size of a timber hole is the answer to a straightforward question: Does it attract ducks?
“Everybody has different preferences,” Driskill said, “But as long as you’re in an area with heavy duck traffic, I really don’t think the hole matters too much.”
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.