Texas waterfowlers hoping for dry skies

Lots of blue-winged teal were retrieved during the first split of duck season.  

Texas waterfowlers hoping for dry skies

 

Will Texas ever dry out?

With the first split of duck season coming to a close and December quickly upon us, three months of precipitation has taken its toll on waterfowl and waterfowlers.

“I’m just tired of all the mud,” said guide Matt Sbrusch of Prairie Waterfowl in East Bernard/Eagle Lake. “Some of this prairie ground has become rotten from being so wet for so long and it makes it hard to get around.”

Sbrusch said ducks haven’t been a problem; rather, getting to the ducks has been the challenge.

“It took two 6x6 Rangers to get to one of our ponds loaded with ducks. We took two buggies to pull each other out when we got stuck, because we knew we would get stuck somewhere.”

Blue-winged teal had been the main course on straps for the first two weeks, then the first cold front arrived and brought with it freezing temperatures, snow and sleet, an anomaly for November coastal Texas.

The arctic air ushered in green-winged teal, gadwalls, wigeons, pintails, shovelers and the first wave of snow geese, and ushered out most of the bluewings.

“We made a living on teal for the first two weeks,” said guide Andrew Armour of KPO on the Pierce Ranch. “Lately, the teal have thinned out and we have been shooting more pintails, gadwalls and spoonies.”

Armour said he has been happy with the number of snow geese, but many second-cropped rice fields remain uncut from all the rain, making it hard to get big harvest equipment in the field. Also, the abysmal crop of first year snow geese has made for tougher decoying action.

“You better go in on a really hot feeding field and have some wind and weather if you want to shoot snow geese this year,” he said.

The colder than normal November weather has encouraged divers like scaup, redheads, and buffleheads to find the bayfront sooner. Bays from Matagorda to Rockport have enjoyed large rafts of divers during the first split that had been tardy in past years. Pintails and wigeons have also made for profitable bags in the back lakes of Port O’Connor, Seadrift and Port Aransas.

Marsh hunters on the east side of Houston have seen influxes of green-winged teal, gadwalls and pintails. A wet estuary has balanced brine ponds and encouraged strong growth of aquatics like wigeongrass, a Thanksgiving buffet to wintering waterfowl. Consistent hunts have been posted near Anahuac, Winnie, Smith Point, High Island and Sabine Pass.

North Texas hunters have dealt with swollen rivers and flooded bottoms, which is great habitat for ducks, but treacherous terrain for hunters. Many shotgunners have resorted to hunting from boats or moving blinds to higher ground to deal with deep water.

With so much water, mallards, gadwalls and wood ducks are scattered in pastures and sloughs where scouting is of the upmost.

“We will go find a good group of mallards and the next day they are gone,” said Buddy Hughes of H&W Marine in Marshall. “The birds are moving around with all the water.”

Hughes said all the water has allowed shallow-driven and surface-drive boats access to far-reaching haunts.

“A lot of the ground holding ducks this year is normally dry,” said Hughes. “If you want to find ducks you better put the work in scouting.”

The South Zone split ends at sunset Nov.25 while the North Zone runs through Dec.2.

Both zones will reopen Dec.8 and run through Jan.27, 2019.

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