Outdoors

“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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I don’t know if it’s possible to have a better duck season than what we have experienced so far. The first split came to a close on Nov. 27, and based on what I’ve seen and heard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was dead on when they advised duck hunters to get set for a better than average season. The second half will run from Dec. 10 through Jan. 29 in both the north and south zones.

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Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it seems as though most folks around our area fared well. Certainly there are exceptions to that, but for the most part things locally in the outdoors are good. Even with the drought curtailing food growth for the deer, they continue to feed mostly at night. That has been the case, in my experience, no mater the moon phase. Even so, there have been some really fine bucks taken in East Texas, which is nothing unusual. Their body condition is not as good because of the drought, but all in all they are not in bad shape.

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As we are getting into the Thanksgiving mood and then comes Christmas, most of the outdoor folks are deeply involved in hunting. There are many seasons now open, with the majority of the hunting being either waterfowl or deer. But we are now also into some of the better inland saltwater fishing action of the year.

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A number of years, ago I did a grim deer-hunting story on a man that went into the woods and didn’t come out alive. I got a call from a game warden about a guy that left his house one afternoon to go deer hunting at a local club he belonged to that was not far from his house in Jasper. The man packed up his gear and told his wife he would be home shortly after dark. When he didn’t return late that evening, his wife called the sheriff’s department, which in turn called a game warden.

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I’ve spent the better part of the past couple of weeks fishing on Sabine Lake. During that time, we’ve caught everything but the kitchen sink on a variety of lures from Wedgetail Mullets to Bayou Chubs made by Egret Baits. Without a doubt, the most consistent action has been chasing the birds. That’s where lots of anglers are taking specks, reds and some of the biggest sand trout I’ve ever seen.

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