West Texas goose and duck hunts are best, hands down

We easily had over a thousand geese circling the decoys Sunday morning, Dec. 11, and there was no doubt that they we’re coming on down, so it was no surprise when guide Evan Botsford, yelled for us to shoot ‘em.

Our group of hunters popped up out of the custom made layout blinds with shotguns blasting, and nine lesser Canada geese tumbled out of the sky. We were high-fiving when Botsford yelled to get down.

“We’ve got another big group out front,” he said. “I’ll call the shot. Everybody get ready.”

Just like the last group, this barrage of cackling geese came in from a distant roost pond a few miles away. They saw our spread of decoys, heard the calling and locked in on the black flag Botsford was waving to simulate a flying goose.

He and Chase Morgan were on the calls. Next thing you know the whole flight of Canada geese started circling low over the decoys. Several had already landed when Botsford called the shot.

Beaumont’s Lewis Hiltpold was in a layout blind several feet to my left. Both of us popped up to shoot and we suddenly realized the birds were so close we could reach out and grab ‘em. Many were walking around in the decoys, dozens were locked up and gliding in with several hundred more coming on down.

“I think this is what we’re here for,” hissed Hiltpold. “I have never seen anything like this.”

By 8:11 a.m. we had 45 Canada geese on the ground, a limit of five per hunter.

“Don’t shoot any more dark geese,” yelled Botsford. “The snows will start moving shortly, and we’ll shoot them. The limit is 20 per man.”

Beaumont’s Colby Denbow had e-mailed me a few weeks ago with a photo of him and his buddies behind a stack of geese – as in over a hundred. Then he called.

“You need to get up here; we’ve got more geese than we can run off,” said Denbow, who along with Botsford and Morgan are students at Texas Tech in Lubbock.To make a long story short, Hiltpold and I loaded up with a case or two of steel shot, grabbed the shotguns, plenty of warm clothing and headed up to what is called the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, which is part of the Texas Western Zone for goose hunting.

That’s a long road trip – as in about 10 hours from Southeast Texas. But consider this. We made two duck hunts and one goose hunt. We had limits of ducks while hunting on a playa lake covering about 50 acres. The ducks included mallards, pintails, widgeon, teal and divers. It was fast shooting. On the goose hunt we shot until we ran out of shells. When the smoke cleared we had 93 birds on the ground – 45 Canadas, 44 snows, and four mallards. Believe me, it’s a road trip you need to make. As we were picking up the decoys, thousands of geese were still trying to come in.

Botsford, along with Denbow, run hunts for ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, quail, pheasants, turkey and doves. It’s a bird hunting bonanza. If that’s not enough, they also run deer and hog hunts.“I grew up bird hunting in Southeast Texas,” said Denbow. “The hunting is good there, but it’s 10 times better here. We get clients from all over. Most are from Texas, but quite a few are from New Mexico and Oklahoma.”

Botsford says he grew up in Houston and spent a lot of time hunting the Katy area for ducks and geese.

“There are a lot of geese and ducks around Katy,” said Botsford. “But they get a lot of hunting pressure. The birds up here don’t get very much pressure at all. That’s why our goose and duck hunts are so successful.”

One reason for the great waterfowl hunting on the High Plains region of Texas is the production of corn and wheat. This is flat country with plains that go on for hundreds of miles. With the exception of Lubbock most of the land that surrounds the many towns here is used for growing corn, wheat and cotton – tons of it.Corn and wheat are magnets for geese. Our goose hunt was on cornfield stubble. The ground was covered with kernels of yellow corn, which is why we shot until we ran out of shells.

The cool thing about hunting with Crooked Wing Outfitters is that it’s a first-class operation. I have been covering the outdoors for newspapers and magazines for 29 years, and I’ve never seen a better hunting operation than CWO. Botsford and his buddies own and operate CWO. They are college kids that have tapped into bird hunting like I have never seen before.

If you go, the drill is simple. Book a room at any hotel in Lubbock. From there you’ll hook up with the CWO guys at various locations and head out from there. It’s literally hunting ’til you drop. You can goose hunt in the morning, then go after sand hill cranes that afternoon, or make a duck hunt. Better yet, goose or duck hunt in the morning, and go after pheasants that afternoon. The options are many. Give ’em a call. It’s a road trip filled with bird hunting adventure that you will never forget.