Don’t miss last weekend for waterfowl

Don’t miss last weekend for waterfowl

The lion’s share of the local waterfowl season is history. With only the weekend remaining, hunters should take advantage of some great hunting. The speckled belly or white fronted goose season has been closed hereabouts since Jan. 13. The ducks, snow geese, and Canada goose season is open until Jan. 27. The Canada and speckled-belly goose season will be open until Feb. 3 in the Texas Western Zone, but not here.

After those seasons end comes the so-called light goose conservation season. This extended hunting season is from Jan. 28 through Mar. 24 with no-bag or position limits. There are several other more liberal regulations than are in force during the conservation season. The electronic call is legal to use during the conservation season. Whether these calls are productive or not is still debatable. The geese have been in this area and hunted for a good while. Many of the younger geese have either been killed or educated by late January. The more mature birds are already wary and they have become shy of decoy spreads, blinds, and yes, any kind of artificial calling. They seem to find safe havens in no-hunting areas and stay there much of the time. That’s not to say that it is useless to go after the light geese, but they are not an easy-to-connect-with quarry.

There are also more and more ducks moving down this way. The extremely cold weather in the North and Midwest has finally driven more mallards and gadwalls to the South. The only problem has been that our rainfall has left water standing in places that were dry or nearly dry earlier. Whenever that happens, the ducks will scatter to places where food has become available. Those hunters that have access to hunting areas where the water levels are controlled are having some really good shooting for the larger, more desirable ducks. That’s according to most duck chasers. I prefer teal or wood ducks for the table.

Should you have your own property or lease, then I’m sure that there will be an open hole or two that are newly flooded. Should there be some grass or weeds flooded, so much the better. Big ducks like nothing better than shallow water that is in a newly flooded grass or weed field. They will find that food and continue to return until the seeds are gone, the water leaves, or shooting pressure moves them.

It’s my experience that the ducks that you scare off as you move into the area before daybreak are the ones that come back later. They will move out in a large group or two, but they seem to return in smaller numbers a few at a time. That’s what makes those hunt areas so productive. I do recommend that you take your limits or as many as you intend to as quickly as possible. By doing that, the birds that haven’t returned may do so unmolested. This will make your pond productive for a larger number of hunts.

It seems that using the natural vegetation for a blind pays off much better than a constructed one. By now, with only a few days remaining for duck hunting, it is better to use only a few decoys. I don’t claim to know why that is the case, but late season, on both duck and goose hunts, that has worked best for me. In fact, in some heavily hunted areas, only two or three decoys would do the trick.

There seems to have been a good hatch of scaup. These divers have been showing up more than any of the other species since the rains. They are diving ducks and they enjoy the deep water. There is also a bumper crop of redheads. These ducks also spend their time in deeper water. I have not heard much about canvasbacks this year, but they are attracted to the big open water.

Canvasbacks can dive very deep, and they prefer to do that. I’ve killed them with whole clams in their necks. These ducks are highly prized up north, and many of the mature drakes are mounted by taxidermists. Mature canvasbacks are slightly larger than mature mallards.

I can’t finish this article without mentioning some good saltwater fishing that’s available. There have been some slab-size flounder being taken along the Sabine Ship Channel where the marsh bayous drain.