The first couple of weeks of November are two of the best you’ll experience on the right side of Texas. Deer and duck seasons are open, and fishing on Sabine Lake for trout and reds under the birds is red hot.
The entire month of November is prime time deer hunting in the Pineywoods. There is one reason why – bucks are in the rut and running does all over the place night and day. It’s not easy to get the jump on a mature buck, unless you hunt the rut.
One other way to up your chances of tagging a trophy-class buck right about now is to spend as much time hunting as possible. It’s not always easy to sit in a blind for hours at a time. And it’s even worse if you are hunting from a tree stand. One option is to move from one stand to another to break the boredom.
If you’re into rattling horns to simulate two bucks fighting over a doe, this is the time to do it – all day long. The biggest buck I ever shot in the Pineywoods came to my rattling horns at about 11 a.m. one morning. Usually by that time, most hunters are back at camp. But during the rut, bucks will normally be moving all day long, especially just before a front moves through.
The Texas general gun season on deer opens Nov. 5 and runs through Jan. 1, 2012, in North Texas and Jan. 15, 2012, in South Texas.
The first half of the Texas waterfowl season opens in the North and South zones Nov. 5, 30 minutes before sunrise. The first split will run through Nov. 27. The second half dates are Dec. 10 – Jan. 29 in both zones.
What’s the outlook? Well, according to Steve Lightfoot with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, duck hunters might have better luck bringing in birds with a divining rod instead of a duck call this hunting season.
“Wetland habitat conditions throughout waterfowl wintering grounds in Texas have suffered greatly under the drought, and what precious little groceries that remain aren’t expected to hold birds for long,” said Lightfoot. “Any rainfall prior to the season opener would be a welcome sight for an anticipated banner migration of ducks, but at this point wildlife biologists feel it’s too late to repair the damage this year from the drought.”
Matt Nelson, Central Coast Wetlands Ecosystem project leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, says the bays will see more activity this season than in years past but with little food production, he doesn’t think we will hold many birds for any length of time.
“We simply don’t have the habitat or food,” he said.
The upper coast is fairing a little better but not much, says Port Arthur based Jim Sutherlin, TPWD Upper Coast Wetlands Ecosystem project leader.
“We are 23 inches behind our annual rainfall after ending last year around 13 inches behind,” said Sutherlin. “Our soil moisture levels are very low, but we are growing green grass this fall instead of watching grass turn brown as we did in the hot summer. Coastal marsh habitat conditions are dismal; either we have dry marshes, or marshes with very high salinity waters, which produce little wildlife benefit, kill plants and deteriorate organic wetland soils.”
“We have very few submerged aquatic plants, but we do have some impressive stands of millet in a few sites,” said Sutherlin. “The rice agriculture and coastal prairie range around us is very dry. We likely will have an abundance of ducks for short periods of time during the hunting season due to the overall duck numbers in this fall migration. I do not expect the birds to stay with us for very long due to low waterfowl food availability and marginal seasonal habitat conditions along the Western Gulf Coast.”
If you’re not into the gunplay for deer and ducks, don’t fret. The absolute best time of year to be fishing on Sabine Lake is right now. As of this week, the bird action on Sabine is as good as it gets. Shrimp are well into their fall migration from the marsh to the Gulf, and flocks of gulls are all over them. The only thing you have to do is move from one bunch of gulls to the next, and they are everywhere. I’ve been on the lake quite a bit lately and there aren’t that many boats working the birds. On most days, we easily loaded up with trout and several reds. Best lures are white rat-tailed soft plastics rigged on 1/4-ounce jig heads. Most keeper trout and reds are being caught with jigs bumped on bottom.