Outdoors

Sunday at sunset, Robert Mason, Denny Copeland and I were putting limits of mallards and pintails on duck straps. It was to be our last duck hunt of the 2011-12 season and one that a whole lot of us won’t soon forget.

This should give you an idea of how good the season was. Four of my duck hunting buddies in Central Texas bagged just over 800 ducks, which according to their data, is an all-time record for them. They hunt a lot, but what’s most interesting is that they only hunt on public lakes and rivers.

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Buddy Smith had a pair of his favorite quail hunting dogs on the ground and Jimmie Buffett, his go-to pointer, was locked up on a covey in a brush pile next to a huge oak tree. Smith motioned for his yellow lab, Wes, to move in and flush the birds.

Mike Ramsey, his son Michael and I were on point when five bobwhite quail flushed. The birds were surprisingly fast, considering they were pen raised. But only two hit the ground.

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Speckled belly or white front goose season is closed and has been since the 15th. Both duck and the regular goose seasons will end on Sunday, Jan. 29. After that, the so-called Conservation Order allows snow, blue, and Ross geese to be taken Jan. 30 through March 25.

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Searching for the perfect saltwater fishing boat can be downright confusing. The top two questions center on two problems. First, do you want to have a boat with shallow running capabilities? Second, are you in the market for a boat that will fish two to four fishermen comfortably on the open bays, in the surf and at the jetties?

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The South Texas whitetail deer season will close on Jan. 15. There are 30 Texas counties that are affected by the season closing. After that, the spike and antlerless season will continue in 209 North Texas counties. The antlerless and spike season will be from Jan. 16 through 29 in 30 South Texas counties.

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“Committing to a healthier lifestyle continues to be one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions for millions of Americans,” said Bryan Frazier with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “And this year, Texas State Parks are providing more than 40 places where folks can do just that—many of which are located close to major metro areas.”

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Where the outdoors is concerned, 2011 has really been an unusual year. Even back into latter 2010, there was a definite shortage of rainfall. That situation has continued until even now. Sure, we have enjoyed some good showers in Southeast Texas, but the big lakes are all still at a very low level. But all in all, there have been many more positive things that have taken place than negative ones.

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Just before the duck season began, I talked with Jim Sutherlin, Upper Coast Wetland Ecosystem project leader, at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur. Thanks to the drought, he wasn’t too sure how good the public duck hunts were going to be at this Southeast Texas hotspot. His thinking was that the ducks would get here but leave in short order due to an acute lack of food. Come to find out, big time numbers of birds are here, and duck hunts at the J.D.

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With the cold fronts beginning to reach our area in greater numbers, the waters in our inland lakes and bays have cooled. The hoards of baitfish and shrimp that the north winds push from the marshes and bayous have mostly all gone out by now. With that situation, the anglers that are knowledgeable about fishing the cold water will be exposed to some really big fish. Speckled trout and redfish are the more available varieties, but the flat fish do show up from time to time.

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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.

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