Hunters shift focus with season’s change
The central zone dove season is already closed until Dec. 23 and the south zone is closing Oct. 30 until Dec. 23, but with duck, goose, and deer seasons opening Nov. 5, hunters are all smiles. And saltwater fishing on the inland lakes and bays could hardly be better. The speckled trout, redfish, croaker, sand trout and flounder are showing up in many coolers.
The dove seasons have been mostly typical. The openings of each season were just super good for those that were afield after them. By this late in the first part of the split season, the folks that don’t hunt at the same place too often have still been successful. Naturally in our area, the doves are here early in the season and then they move further to the south. That creates a slight lull for a few weeks. After there are a couple cold fronts, some new doves show up. The local birds are smaller and much lighter in color than the ones that migrate into an area later in the year. In fact, many folks say that those late migrators are purple doves. They are fully mature doves and slightly larger than the early immature birds.
For some reason, squirrel season attracts fewer hunters than it once did. Perhaps it’s because of less open woods that don’t require some kind of permit. It could be that hunters have become more of the urban types who prefer other kinds of hunting. Whatever the reason for fewer squirrel hunters, there seems to be a good crop of the bushy tails around. Both cat squirrels and fox squirrels are active now. There is an old saying that when squirrels grow heavy fur on their tails, there will likely be a cold winter. The cat squirrels that I’ve observed are sporting the furriest tails that I’ve ever seen. We’ll see if the old saying holds true when winter arrives.
The waterfowl began arriving in September during the early teal season. Pintails, gadwall, teal and shovelers were arriving in small numbers at first, but their numbers were increasing almost weekly. The only problem has been the lack of water in areas that normally holds plenty of it for the waterfowl to enjoy. When the hunting season for them begins Nov. 5, the areas with water should have plenty of ducks around. Various species of ducks have very different preferences in their habitat. For the most part, wood ducks stay in wooded areas that have sloughs, creeks, ponds and bogs. During dry times, they will leave the woods and venture out into the rice fields and marshes. Mottled ducks (black mallards) do not migrate. They are native to the coastal marshes. The mottled ducks now come under the category of dusky duck. The dusky ducks are not legal game on Nov. 5. They become fair game five days later as do several other dark species. Check the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s regulations to learn what’s legal on Nov. 5 and what’s not. Also, learn to identify the duck species that frequent our area. That could keep you from making a mistake and killing an illegal bird or taking more than a legal limit.
The specklebelly geese also began arriving in September, and they continue to do so. Snow geese and their subspecies are beginning to trickle in now, but the really big migration will come a little later on. The geese will use dry fields that contain rice seed or green grass for them to feed on. Once they have enjoyed feeding, they will fly into the marshes or game reserves to rest. Should there be water in the rice fields, they will hang around them until they are frightened away. If we can get some rain, the upcoming waterfowl season will be excellent.
I’ve probably gotten more questions about the range conditions for the Texas Hill Country and the brush country than ever before. The answer is that those areas have been very dry, but they usually are. In areas where there is overpopulation, the animals are in poor body condition and they are haunting the deer feeders. Irrigated green fields are also attracting the deer. The lack of forbs and other deer food will be in the hunters’ favor. The animals will be moving around more during the daylight hours in search of food. The fawn crop could have suffered should the does have aborted. That has yet to be determined. Take any surplus animals that are allowed.East Texas whitetails seem to be doing better than the Hill Country and South Texas deer. Their body weight is off a little, but they are not in terrible shape in most areas. Like the dry land deer, they are moving more during daylight hours than usual. Expect a good year for East Texas hunters.
I can’t end this without mentioning we are experiencing an old-time October fishing bonanza. East Bay, Trinity Bay, Sabine Lake and Big Lake in Louisiana are all yielding some really super catches. This should continue until the weather becomes too cold.