Remember all those blue-winged teal we had hoped would show up in the 95-degree September heat? They have finally arrived in Texas– along with a few friends.
A full moon coupled with fall’s first real cold front last week deposited migrants on the coastal prairies and marshes, setting up what could be quick shoots come opening morning on Nov. 2.
And with tropical rainfall in October falling in copious amounts, habitat conditions are prime to sustain Lone Star State waterfowl during the 2019−2020 season.
“There is definitely no shortage of water,” says guide Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters. “The high ground is holding plenty of bluewings and this last cold front pushed in big numbers of specklebellies and a handful of snow geese.”
Davenport hunts the storied marsh east of Houston in Chambers County near Anahuac and reports that summer rains jump-started aquatic vegetation production.
“Most of our marsh ponds are matted with wigeon grass,” he says. “The marshes between High Island and Smith Point are holding good numbers of gadwalls, wigeon, and teal, and there is plenty of food to hold them for a while.”
High ground hunters west of Houston along the Hwy 59 corridor are seeing strong numbers of puddle ducks on moist-soil impoundments, flooded second-cropped rice fields and leveed ponds.
Guide Jimmy Reynolds, of Rocky Creek Retrievers Waterfowl near El Campo, reports that their properties are loaded with teal and pintails.
“We are covered up in ducks right now,” Reynolds says. “The opener is looking really strong.”
Just up the highway near Wharton, guide Andrew Armour of Karankawa Plains Outfitters, which operates on the Pierce Ranch, explains that duck numbers in Wharton County are impressive.
“A lot of pintails and teal showed up with the north wind last week,” he says. “Specks, sandhill cranes, and a few snow geese are here. I have seen more divers showing up on their way to the coast as well, so the migration is in full swing.”
Last season was a tough one for Texas goose hunters. However, Harlan Boettcher, of Prairie Waterfowl in East Bernard/Eagle Lake, says this year’s hatch looks a lot better.
“We shot a lot of young snows in Canada this year, and those are some of the same geese that will head to the Texas Coast,” he says.
In the North Zone, biologist Jared Laing said habitat conditions are generally fair to poor in the region, but that’s not always a barometer for hunting success in Northeast Texas.
“I’ve seen years where the hunting was better with poorer conditions than with great conditions,” he says. “It’s always unpredictable what actually happens, but I have already seen a decent number of birds.”
All in all, Texas waterfowl hunters have a lot to be optimistic about heading into November.