Soggy opener for deer and duck hunters

Roy Euper of Lufkin caught Toyota ShareLunker 564 from Sam Rayburn on Nov. 2. Th

Opening weekend of deer season and the north zone opener on ducks was on the soggy side, but at least we got our first good cold front that should set the stage for excellent deer hunting this week.

There is big news on the East Texas bass fishing scene. Roy Euper caught the first Toyota ShareLunker of the season from Sam Rayburn last week. The fish weighed 13.2 pounds, qualifying it to become ShareLunker 564.

“Any angler who catches a 13-pound largemouth bass can be considered lucky, but Euper may be the luckiest of all,” says Larry Hodge with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The official weight for the fish was taken at Jackson Hill Park Marina. After the fish arrived at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, it regurgitated a crappie that weighed 0.3 pounds. Had the fish not eaten that crappie, or if it had spit it up before being weighed, it would not have weighed the 13 pounds necessary to qualify as a ShareLunker.”

Euper was fishing in 30 feet of water with a crankbait when the fish bit about 3 p.m. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 22 inches in girth.

The catch moved Sam Rayburn into sole possession of second place among Texas lakes for number of ShareLunkers caught. Anglers have caught 26 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more from Rayburn. Only Lake Fork, with 257 entries, has produced more. Lakes O.H. Ivie and Alan Henry have each produced 25.

Last season, Sam Rayburn sent two ShareLunkers to Athens. Both were caught on the same day, March 7. More ShareLunkers are caught in March than in any other month. Euper’s fish is only the 12th in the 30-year history of the ShareLunker program to be caught in November.

Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or heavier largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between Oct. 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.

Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing, and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. The person who catches the season’s heaviest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis of a top-of-the-line rod, Shimano reel, PowerPro line and G. Loomis hat. If the Angler of the Year is a Texas resident, that person will also receive a lifetime Texas fishing license.

ShareLunker catches can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the season by calling (903) 681-0550. If poor cellphone service prevents use of the voice number, anglers can leave a phone number (including area code) at (888) 784-0600. That number is also monitored 24/7 during the season.

Bucks are in the rut in the Pineywoods, Hill Country

A number of hunters I’ve talked with say they saw fair numbers of bucks chasing does in the Pineywoods. Ditto that for the Hill Country hunters. In fact, quite a few quality bucks were tagged Saturday and Sunday in the Hill Country.

David Johnson was on stand at first light Saturday morning, Nov. 7, near Burnett and saw three bucks chasing one doe. That was in an open pasture well away from any feeders. He waited for a broadside shot on a heavy set 10-pointer and put some meat on the ground, not to mention a set of antlers for the wall.

North Zone duck season opener not so good

The North Zone opener on ducks was not very good, as expected. Due to a lack of fronts moving through, we haven’t had a good push of ducks down the Central Flyway. And the ducks that are here are scattered due to an abundant supply of sheet water on plowed fields. But the good news is that plenty of ducks are heading this way, according to reports from waterfowl biologists up around the north end of the Central Flyway.

Prior to the season opener, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department came out with glowing reports of record-setting waterfowl populations. Those reports indicated that most species of ducks important to Texas waterfowlers are well above the long-term averages, with mallards and green-winged teal reaching all-time highs. That may be the case, but one thing is certain – they aren’t here yet.

I talked with Bobby Vaughan a couple of days ago, and he said their hunts west of Beaumont were slower than cold molasses. Bobby is one of the very best duck hunters I’ve ever hunted with. His theory is that our season opens up way too early.

“It seems like year after year after year, we have very few ducks during the first split,” says Vaughan. “I’ve got the perfect field set up with everything a duck could want. And you know what? I don’t have a single duck out there. That’s pitiful. We had an outstanding teal season and thought we would have teal for the opener of the regular season. But that’s definitely not the case here.”

Buddy Oaks at Hackberry Rod and Gun Club reports that they had plenty of shooting during Saturday’s opener. Their hunters brought in over 400 ducks. Most of those were teal and gadwall, mixed in with a few pintails and spoonies.

On the middle Texas coast, duck hunts are worse than horrible. It was hoped that last weekend’s cold front would move a lot of pintails and redheads down to the coastal bays and marsh around Matagorda and Port O’Connor. Nothing happened.

With more fronts on the way, duck hunts will improve. But for the time being, it’s slim pickings.