Jim Ronquest is as relaxed and patient as an ol’ Arkansas boy can be, but he will not hesitate to get aggressive and gamble on uncooperative ducks.
“I’m easy like a Sunday morning, but sometimes ya just have to roll the dice on’em and hope what you’re doing gets birds in,” said Jimbo.
A world champion caller, Ronquest was working a flock of mallards with long-time buddy and MOmarsh owner Ira McCauley, who has hosted the RNT-V guys on his Locust Grove farm in Sumner, Missouri, for the better part of a decade. The two former guides called perfectly in tandem like a pair of old pals should. One started wailing at a group of ducks, and just as he was finishing a sequence, the second guy started in. It sounded as real as a refuge full of hens.
“Jim and I blow our (RNT) Mondos quite a bit different,” Ira said. “But it’s kind of advantageous, because we can sound like a bunch a different ducks.”
And on this cloudy afternoon, the years of hunting alongside one another paid off in dead greenheads. A stale flock of December ducks (Sumner had an early push of birds to start the season and was waiting on a second migration) circled the spread time and again. They began sky-high, then were sucked in by high-volume high balls and plead calls from Jimbo and Ira. But they would not finish until Jim went for broke with the most excited feed chuckle he could conjure.
“I could tell that she liked it, but I stopped when it looked like those birds might get right,” said Ronquest of a mouthy hen he finally tricked into giving it up, and she brought the entire flock along for the ride, a bad deal for several of her drake suitors. “So I just decided to hit her with that feed call louder, longer and all the way to the water.”
It was a tough week to be a north Missouri duck hunter, though we shot up enough flocks to eat a big blackened mallard dinner cooked up by Ira on the last night. And though the hunting wasn’t a smash, the folks in camp certainly where: Sitka’s Ryan Bassham, Mathew Cagle of Rig’Em Right and Jeff Watt, an outdoor sales guy and grill master who seared up some prime Tomahawk steaks none of us could stop binging on.
“For me, the company you keep in the duck woods is every bit as important as the ducks,” said Jimbo.
RNT has been coming here just before Habitat Flats (Ira is a co-owner) was in full operation. They showed up to Love Lake, a prime HF duck hole, and for the next few days it was as good as it gets in Sumner. Group after group of green slammed into the spread, and after that episode aired, it attracted plenty of guests to the famed Missouri duck lodge. The relationship has stayed the course ever since—two old buddies hoping to time the migration right.
“Man that first year was a scorcher,” said Jimbo. “We were killin’ ducks, and let me tell ya, it was a big time. We’ve never had another week like at’ one here, but that was one heck of a hard week to beat. And of course, we love comin’ back, because Brother Ira treats us right. And I’ll take that over pile a ducks any day.”