By Bink Grimes, WF360 Texas Migration Editor
Texas rang in the New Year with copious amounts of rain. The ground is saturated (and in some spots rotten), rivers are swollen, and rubber boots have replaced cowboy boots. However, despite all the excess water, prospects look good for a strong finish to the 2018–’19 duck season.
“It just won’t stop raining,” says Andrew Armour of Karankawa Plains Outfitting on Pierce Ranch near Wharton. “We have been dealing with it since teal season, but our hunting has stayed pretty good throughout.”
Armour says the full moon last week put a bit of a damper on the flight, but for the most part the hunters he’s guided still have enjoyed near-limits or limits of ducks.
“Greenwings have shown up in force,” Armour reports. “Teal have saved the day many mornings. But pintails, gadwalls, and shovelers have been plentiful as well.” He says he has had to be more vigilant about water management than in past years, as he tries to keep optimal water levels for shallow-feeding puddle ducks.
“If the water gets too deep the teal and other puddle ducks will leave, sometimes overnight,” Armour explains. “But if you drop levels too low and your ponds dry up, you will have to pay to pump water for the last two weeks of the season.”
The marshland on the east side of Houston has been profitable for those hunters willing to stay out through late morning. Guide Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters, near Anahuac and Smith Point, says that hunting later in the day has been the key to success in recent days.
“For some reason the birds have moved better from 10 a.m. to noon lately,” he says. “We have seen an influx of greenwings, wigeon, and gadwalls. Our marsh blinds have been steady and our high ground blinds have been best with nasty weather.”
Guide Jim West says the High Island marsh has seen mostly teal and gadwalls lately, with lots of pintails and a few mallards on high-ground ponds. “Those days when the wind is really blowing has turned on the marsh,” West says.
North Texas hunters, like coastal hunters, have dealt with an abundance of water. Most sloughs and bayous that normally hold mallards and wood ducks have been too deep and dangerous to hunt.
Flooded pastures have spread thin any large concentrations of mallards and gadwalls, so scouting has been essential to stay on huntable numbers.
“One day we find them, the next day they are gone,” reports Buddy Hughes of H&W Marine in Marshall. “Most of our lakes up here are above pool and that makes for tougher hunting. There are a lot of ducks in places that are normally dry.”
Sandhill crane hunters have enjoyed good hunts over corn, rice, and plowed ground on the coastal prairies. Most hunters are setting small spreads and hiding downwind of decoys, then shooting as cranes glide into the spread. Others have used layout blinds with natural cover to shoot decoying birds.
Goose hunting has been mostly futile for Texas hunters. After superb results for decoying snow geese and specklebellies last season, this year has left veteran goose hunters shaking their heads. An almost nonexistent hatch of snow geese coupled with wet, muddy fields and a late rice harvest, has forced even the most seasoned goose hunters to switch their focus to ducks.
The Texas duck and goose season runs through January 27.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, waterfowler, and licensed captain. A waterfowl guide in his 28th season, Grimes resides in Bay City, Texas. He will provide detailed migration and hunting reports for Waterfowl360 throughout the 2018-2019 Texas waterfowl season.