The Best Hunting, Fishing in Texas

Robert Sloan Photo

I don’t know if it gets any better than this in Texas. We can hunt deer, shoot ducks and geese, fish for reds and trout under birds on Sabine Lake, or head to the surf to catch bull reds till our arms give out.

A few days ago, I fished Sabine Lake and two of us caught enough trout and reds to feed a family reunion. The very next day, I was sitting in a duck blind shooting red heads and pintails over a spread of decoys.

Deer hunting reports are outstanding from all across Texas. The cold front that moved through last week was perfectly timed for the Saturday opener on deer. In the Pineywoods, bucks are in the rut and chasing does. A friend of mine called to say he had passed on a 10-pointer that showed up at first light Saturday morning, right behind a doe. He was hunting just north of Jasper on a 58-acre farm that his family owns. He passed on that buck thinking that a bigger one might be in the area.

The only thing that’s not exactly hot-to-go are the ducks. I’ve had numerous reports, and  about half told of good shoots. It was either or feast of famine. A friend of mine hunted at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge opening day and had a four-man limit of gadwall and teal by 8:30. That’s your basic excellent hunt. Conversely, I talked with another group of hunters that didn’t fire a shot while hunting over flooded rice near Winnie. For the most part, the best hunts were over freshwater ponds that were loaded with teal and scattered big ducks like pintails, red heads and gadwall.

The season for whitetail deer and turkey continues through Jan. 4, 2015, in the 209 counties in the North Zone, and until Jan. 18 in the 30-county South Zone. A late antlerless and spike season will run from Jan. 5-18 in the North Zone and Jan. 19 – Feb. 1 in the South Zone. There is also another youth-only season from Jan. 5-18 in all counties where deer hunting is legal.

Bag limits and legal antler spread on bucks varies by county, so it’s best to consult a copy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife 2014-2015 Outdoor Annual or the new Outdoor Annual app for smartphones before heading to the field. The annual is available at hunting license sales outlets, online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us and as a free mobile app download on iOS and Android platforms at www.txoutdoorannual.com/app.

One requirement that does not vary is that all deer and turkey taken must be tagged. And to do that, you must have a valid Texas hunting license. When hunting, you must also have a valid driver license or state-issued identification card in your possession.

Legal hunting time for the day ends 30 minutes after sunset. Since sunrise and sunset times vary by geographic area, be sure and check what those times will be where you’ll be hunting.

One thing is certain: Texas game wardens will be out in force during deer season to make sure that those who head to the field hoping to harvest some fresh meat and maybe a good set of antlers not only obey all applicable laws but also get home safely.

The top way to pay more than you anticipated for the privilege to hunt is to head to your blind without a hunting license or not having taken a hunter safety course if you were born after 1971. To learn more about the hunter education program, see www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoor-learning/hunter-education

Even if you’ve taken the hunter safety course, or have been a hunter since before passage of the hunter education law, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself with the principles of safe firearm handling. Bottom line: Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded.

 

Beaumont woman is big time Texas hunt winner

Thirteen lucky sportsmen are making special plans for hunting season as winners of this year’s Big Time Texas Hunts. The hunters, one of whom lives in Beaumont, were selected by random computer drawing from applicants in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program.

All told, hunters bought 68,174 Big Time Texas Hunt entries during this year’s sales period. This generated $640,825 in gross revenue to support wildlife research, habitat management and public hunting.

The winner of this year’s Big Time Texas Hunts crown jewel, the Texas Grand Slam hunt package, which includes four separate guided hunts for Texas’ most prized big game animals — desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and mule deer — is Buddie Gunter of Corpus Christi.

Gunter said he has been entering Big Time Texas Hunts for several years and is looking forward to taking his son with him on the hunts.

“Fortunately I’m self-employed and pretty flexible so I can make it work,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking my son with me and having a good time. That desert bighorn is a once-in-a-lifetime deal so that’s going to be awesome.”

The winner of the Big Time Bird Hunt is Nancy Beaulieu of Beaumont

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