It's a good time to be a duck hunter on the Texas Gulf Coast
. Timely rains and cold fronts have made for a great beginning to the waterfowl season in this region. The rice prairies of Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties have more water now than they have had in recent years, providing vital habitat
for wintering ducks, geese and sandhill cranes.
"We are holding more ducks than I can remember in a long time," said outfitter Bill Sherrill. "It's a testament to the power of water and sound conservation."
On opening weekend, many hunters reported an abundance of teal, gadwalls, pintails, wigeon
on coastal marshes and prairies. "Everyone around here is smiling," said Mike Grigar, owner of Johnny's Sport Shop in Eagle Lake, a long-established waterfowling hub. "Man, it has been good for hunters around Garwood, Altair, Eagle Lake, Wharton, East Bernard and El Campo."
Likewise, hunters on the east side of Houston have enjoyed consistent shooting near Anahuac, Winnie and High Island. Recent rains have "sweetened" the tidal marsh, balancing the brine and allowing duck food like widgeon grass to prosper. "The hunting is good and our marshes are in great shape," said Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters.
Duck hunting action has been a bit slower on coastal waters near Port O'Connor and Rockport as well as on the Laguna Madre. However, the latest cold front did push rafts of redheads, pintails, and gadwalls onto the bays, and the harvest has improved in recent days for waterfowlers in these areas.
More geese also showed up this week on the stiff north wind, although many hunters have been focusing on ducks for the time being. "We try to let the geese get here and get comfortable before we start to hunt them," Sherrill said. "Some of the second-cropped rice fields are just now being cut so the specklebellies and snows are hitting them hard."
The first split of the Texas South Zone ends at sunset on December 1, then reopens on December 14. The Eastern Zone goose season remains open through the split.