The croplands and grasslands of central Kansas are also prime habitat for white-tailed deer. In this region, a combination of good genes and good habitat helps produce an abundance of bucks fit for the mantel, including several trophies in the state’s record book that scored above 180 Boone and Crockett points. Rifle season usually runs from the end of November through the first week of December. While nonresident rifle tags can be difficult to draw in some deer zones, odds are better for those who opt for hunting during the longer archery season.
7. South Louisiana Ducks with Speckled Trout and Redfish
Louisiana’s coastal marshes are one of the most well-known and important wintering grounds for North American waterfowl. In southeast Louisiana, two places that perennially attract ducks and hunters are Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and Delta NWR at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Delta NWR manager Jack Bohannan says pintails are especially numerous on the refuge, with peak numbers topping 80,000 birds during the last few years.
Because these remote coastal wetlands are accessible only by boat, waterfowlers usually embark from the town of Venice at the southern tip of Louisiana. Located 75 miles south of New Orleans and 14 miles north of the Mississippi River’s mouth, Venice is where the road literally ends. In November and December, duck hunters can also experience great redfish and speckled trout fishing in this area’s sprawling river passes and adjacent freshwater marshes. George Horton, a veteran DU biologist and regional director in Louisiana, explains, “During late fall, speckled trout become concentrated in deep pockets of salt water in the river passes. Once you find one of these holes, the fishing can really get hot.”
8. Kodiak Island Ducks with Sitka Black-tailed Deer
Alaska’s Kodiak Island has long been a favorite destination for waterfowlers who are seeking adventure. And a Kodiak sea duck hunt provides that and more. In November and December, sea ducks congregate off the island when Arctic waters to the north become locked in ice. State biologist Larry Van Daele notes that common eiders, harlequin ducks, and scoters are the most popular ducks pursued by waterfowlers. In addition, Alaska harvest regulations on sea ducks are more generous than those in the Lower 48.
On the island itself, Kodiak’s rugged, pristine wilderness harbors many big game species, including Sitka black-tailed deer. This prized member of the blacktail family was transplanted here in the early 1900s from the coastal rainforest of southeast Alaska. Since then, Sitka populations have grown steadily, Van Daele says, because the deer have adapted well to Kodiak’s habitats. Proof can be found in the record books. Each year, Kodiak produces many of the biggest Sitkas taken on the continent. Although the deer season runs from August 1 through the end of the year, the best time to plan a combination hunt for sea ducks and deer would be later in the season.
9. South Texas Teal with Doves
Early teal season is always a thrilling primer for the regular duck and goose seasons. And the Texas Gulf Coast is one of the best places to take part in this early waterfowling opportunity. The statewide teal season runs during the second and third weeks of September, when bluewings stack up along the coast before jumping to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. “The length of the season is determined annually by the number of bluewings on the breeding grounds,” says Eric Lindstrom, a DU biologist on the Texas coast. “But when the teal get down here, the action can be fast and furious.”
September is also prime time for Texas dove hunting. During the 2005-2006 season, hunters harvested more than 8 million mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped doves in Texas. While most of the action takes place in central and south-central Texas, dove hunters on the coastal plains still bag plenty of birds. Moreover, teal season usually overlaps with the opening day of dove season in the coastal region, allowing hunters to hone their shooting skills on both teal and doves during the same day.
10. Texas Panhandle Canadas with Pheasants
For goose hunters who also like to chase pheasants, the Texas Panhandle has much to offer. By late November, harsh weather on the Great Plains begins to drive thousands of lesser Canada geese into northwest Texas. At the peak of the season, goose numbers can exceed 100,000 birds, according to Bill Johnson, a state waterfowl biologist who conducts midwinter waterfowl surveys in the area. While the Panhandle’s wide-open landscape can make scouting difficult, it also makes for relatively low hunting pressure.
The region’s irrigated croplands, CRP fields, and playa lakes also provide good habitat for pheasants. In the Panhandle, the pheasant season typically opens the first weekend of December and runs through the end of the month. Hunters seek out roosters by working cover along the edges of playa lakes with dogs or by driving the birds on foot. They have enjoyed excellent success in recent years. “Two years ago was the best season in this area since the mid-1980s,” says Jason Brooks, a state wildlife biologist in the Panhandle. While last year’s pheasant hatch was reduced by drought, the region received heavy rains this spring, which should help upland bird populations bounce back.