They appear high over the treetops—a pair of mallard drakes approaching the pond with purpose. The guide spies the ducks first and gets on them with a highball, to which the birds respond by looking, turning and making a wide, sweeping circle. The guide continues his coaxing until, finally committing, the ducks cup their wings and begin slipping air. Just as the pair is hovering over the decoys, two hunters rise and splash the ducks into the drink—at which point an English cocker is released to bring the birds back to the blind.
Now imagine this scenario playing out dozens of times over the course of a few hours—in typical bluebird Texas Hill Country weather, with the sun high in the sky, and with a mid-shoot break to enjoy snacks and socializing by a fire pit. If this sounds too good to be true, you need to check out the Decoyed Mallard Duck Hunt offered by Joshua Creek Ranch, near Boerne, Texas.
Designed for hunters who thrill to watching ducks work and who enjoy plenty of shooting, Joshua Creek’s decoyed mallard duck hunt is a three-hour experience that can be enjoyed on its own or as one leg of the “Texas Trifecta”—in combination with the lodge’s walk-up hunting and its spectacular European-style driven pheasant shooting. The gunning takes place on two tree-lined ponds, each ringed with comfortable blinds that will accommodate up to 14 shooters. Duck hunters are accompanied by professional guides and their team of dogs, and observers are welcome. Ducks approach the ponds from surrounding bluffs and offer everything from in-your-face decoy shooting to high overhead passing shots—and the barrel-warming action can produce bags of more than 100 birds for a larger group of hunters.
About halfway through each shoot, Guns gather near the ponds for snacks and beverages and to relive shots made and missed. Then, based on the wind direction and how the birds are flying, hunters may rotate to other blinds to enjoy new vantage points and different shots. The social aspect combined with plenty of shooting (you’ll need four boxes of shells!) makes the hunt an ideal activity for large groups that want to stay together.
It also is a great opportunity for hunters to give their dogs plenty of work. Although Joshua Creek has a kennel boasting more than 100 dogs—many of which are well-trained cockers, Labs and other retrievers—the lodge encourages guests to bring their own retrieving dogs. According to Director Kevin Welborn: “We don’t emphasize this enough, but it’s a good opportunity for folks to bring their dogs out to retrieve the ducks and give them some experience. We totally welcome and encourage that.”
After the hunt, guests may choose to shoot clays or hunt upland birds or simply enjoy the world-class amenities at Joshua Creek Ranch. The ducks bagged may be featured in wild-game dishes at the lodge or can be taken home cleaned and vacuum packed.
Combine this best-in-class customer service with five-star dining and accommodations, picture-perfect South Texas weather and more quality shooting than any sportsman could hope for, and it’s easy to see why Joshua Creek Ranch offers a wingshooting experience that’s hard to beat.
Photographs by Brian Grossenbacher.