As deer season winds down, duck numbers increase with strong fronts

The South Texas rut  is in full swing and high scoring bucks like this one are r

It took a while, but old man winter is finally here, and just in time for deer hunters to get in on the movement of bucks that are just now beginning to come to feeders. If you’re lucky enough to have a South Texas lease, bucks are definitely in the rut, and now is when some of the highest scoring racks will be tagged.

The regular gun season on deer is rapidly winding down for hunters in all but the South Texas counties. The North Texas season closes Jan. 3. The South Texas season will be open through Jan. 17. Don’t forget that the late antlerless and spike season will be open from Jan. 4-17 in most Texas counties. That’s a great opportunity to tag out on does and cut out a few spikes.

With our big-time blast of cold air this week, it’s guaranteed that plenty of ducks will be moving into Southeast Texas flooded fields and the coastal marsh. The ducks we normally see before Christmas didn’t show up. But with the ponds and rivers icing over and food supplies running low in the upper Central Flyway, lots of ducks will be heading this way.

Some of the best duck hunts over the Christmas holidays centered on blue-winged teal and spoonies. Having blue-wings here through Christmas is definitely odd. And say what you will about spoonbills, but they have saved the day for a whole lot of Southeast Texas hunters this season.

Marsh hunts have been very good. Mark Dixon and three buddies recently hunted a marsh pond near Sabine Lake and had an excellent shoot with a mix of teal and spoonies.

In the Louisiana marsh, just east of Sabine Lake, hunters are taking good numbers of teal, gadwall and pintails.

Flooded fields from Winnie and on down toward Wharton are holding good numbers of teal and spoonies. In fact, some of the ponds and flooded fields near Wharton are holding thousands of spoonies, along with a few pintails and widgeon.

If Old Man Winter can keep hard cold fronts moving through Southeast Texas, the last few weeks of the duck season should turn out to be pretty good.

Toledo Bend focus of fund to control invasive aquatic species

Texas is ramping up its efforts in the Pineywoods to fight the invasion of aquatic species that pose significant threats to the state’s environment and its economy.

“Aquatic invasive species are costing Texas billions of dollars annually in lost property values, lost water, lost potential for power generation, degradation of the state’s natural resources, and management costs,” says Steve Lightfoot with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The potential economic loss in property values alone as a result of continued aquatic invasive infestation in Texas has been estimated at upwards of $17.5 billion. Additionally, when left untreated, these plants can significantly impair outdoor recreational activities like boating, fishing and waterfowl hunting.”

Efforts to combat these impacts got a much-needed boost in 2015, thanks to $6.5 million in legislative appropriations during the last session that state officials believe will be crucial to address the problem.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with other agencies and stakeholders, has been battling against the spread of aquatic invasive plants such as giant salvinia, water hyacinth and hydrilla for decades with limited success. Research into various management options has shown promise in controlling the spread of these plants, but it comes with a price tag that until now has been out of reach.

As a result of the new funding, additional resources being directed at aquatic invasive management include $1.4 million for herbicidal vegetation control treatment, biological treatment, and new TPWD staff positions in East Texas dedicated to aquatic invasive management, including capabilities for small infestation rapid response.

Out of the 20-plus public water bodies containing giant salvinia in Texas, Caddo Lake’s and Toledo Bend Reservoir’s giant salvinia infestations have required the most effort in the battle against invasive species in East Texas. Contractors sprayed over 2,700 and 3,300 acres of giant salvinia at Caddo Lake and Toledo Bend Reservoir, between April and August 2015. Additional spraying at both water bodies has been conducted in October and November.

TPWD released 132,000 and 53,000 adult giant salvinia weevils in Caddo Lake and Toledo Bend during 2015. These weevils were either raised at TPWD greenhouse facilities in Jasper or collected from the existing weevil population at B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir.

Selling crappie fillets will get you a ticket

An East Texas game warden was out patrolling on an ATV when he received an Operation Game Thief call. The anonymous caller said a suspect was selling crappie across the street from the Game Warden office. The warden headed to the office, and as he pulled into the parking lot, he saw the suspect moving a cooler into the trunk of his vehicle. When the warden questioned him, the suspect admitted to selling crappie. After seizing 24 quart bags with 174 crappie fillets, the warden filed citations and sought civil restitution.


Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.