Gearing up for deer and duck hunts

Whitetail deer

We finally got a decent cool front through Texas this past weekend, and hopefully that will jumpstart fishing and hunting prospects in East and Southeast Texas. The summer-like weather we’ve had up until this past Sunday has definitely put a damper on bow hunting for deer. And it’s also made building deer blinds for the Nov. 7 gun season opener on deer a hot and sweaty job. This week’s cool break from record-setting temperatures in the 90s will definitely have more deer on the move, and it’s more than likely moving a lot of doves and ducks to the right side of Texas. By the way, the South Zone duck season opener is Oct. 31.

As the gun season on deer fast approaches, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure all goes well for opening-day hunts. One thing to keep in mind is that buying deer and duck hunting gear is always fun. It’s akin to Christmas shopping, and it’s always better to get it done now rather than later.

The three things that should top a duck hunter’s list are waders, camouflage clothing and decoys. The top three for deer hunters is a trusty rifle, binoculars and a blind.

Leaky waders are always a problem, and always will be a problem. One thing that you want to keep in mind is that when buying waders, you definitely get what you pay for. When purchasing new waders, always try them on for comfort. Remember that you’ll be spending a lot of time wearing them. One thing I might suggest is that the bulky chest waders are heavy and not the best option for hunting in places like the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, where walking is a big part of a successful hunt. The stocking foot, lightweight waders are perfect for hunts on Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend and on marsh and rice fields in places like China and Winnie.

Duck hunting without decoys is like fishing without a hook. But not all decoys are the same. The best mix of decoys here in East and Southeast Texas includes gadwall, pintails, spoonies and maybe a couple of spinning-wing mallards. The price for a dozen decoys can vary quite a bit. The best have weighted keels and are painted to look like the real deal. They are pricey, but will last many seasons. Rigging decoys can be a time consuming drill. It’s best to get ‘em rigged and ready now, rather than later.

Getting camouflage clothing for duck hunting is simple, but should include the best parka you can afford. A good one will have a removable liner, multiple pockets, and be lightweight and waterproof. The best duck hunting parkas can be well over a hundred bucks, but it’s the best money you’ll ever spend.

Topping the big three list for deer hunters is a reliable rifle. The best thing that you can do is have a gun that you know and trust, and will drive tacks at 100 yards. The worst thing you can do is take a rifle hunting that you have not used in years, or have borrowed. The kiss of death is to shoot at a deer with a borrowed rifle that you’ve never shot. That’s guaranteed to be a screw up.

Buying a deer rifle can be confusing. There are many calibers to choose from. The most popular for Texas hunters include a 30.06 and .270. But a .308 and 7 mm magnum are also go-to guns for taking down white-tailed deer. The 30.06 is one of the most popular and versatile. It’s a rifle that can be used to kill deer, elk and most exotics. How much will a rifle cost? Again, buy the best that you can afford. Go to the bank and get a loan if you have to. Why? Because a rifle is a gun that you’ll keep for many years, if not forever. It’s worth the money and the memories.

“A top-of-the-line scope is just as important as the quality of a rifle,” says Randy Leger, at Leger’s Gun Range west of Beaumont. “Get the best you can buy, have it mounted by a professional gunsmith and you’ll never regret it.”

By the way, one of the best places I’ve ever bought a rifle is at Leger’s. You can buy the gun right there, have a scope mounted, buy a box of ammo and take it out back to shoot. It’s a turnkey deal where you can walk away with a trusted rifle that you know will shoot straight.

The second most important thing a deer hunter must have is a good pair of binoculars. Never, ever go deer hunting without binoculars. And never use the rifle scope to scan for deer. Selecting a pair of binoculars is just as important as a quality rifle scope. Spend the money for high-end binoculars, and they will last for years. Dropping $500 for binoculars is not all that crazy. Seeing clearly, both early and late in the day, can be the ticket to deer hunting success. It all starts with quality glass that will deliver an HD view of your hunt.

Hunting out of a blind is the preferred method of taking deer for most deer hunters in Texas. There are many to choose from, and they can be expensive. One classic option, especially in the Pineywoods, is to build your own. Regardless of what type of blind you use, it’s very important that you outfit it with comfortable chairs that are adjustable, so you can easily see out the windows. The best are the swivel office type chairs that double up for deer hunting and power naps.

Trapping in the Big Thicket

The Big Thicket National Preserve will be issuing 21 fur-bearing trapping permits for the 2015-16 State of Texas fur-bearing trapping season (Dec. 1, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016). Limited permits will be available for designated trapping areas:  Beaumont unit – 4, Jack Gore Baygall unit – 7, Lance Rosier unit – 7, and Neches Bottom unit – 3. 

Fur-bearing trapping permits will be issued on a first-come-first-served basis from Nov. 1-30 at the preserve’s headquarters adjacent to the visitor center, 8 miles north of Kountze at the intersection of FM 420 and Highway 69. Permits will be issued by appointment only. Appointments may be made by telephone at (409) 951-6821.

Everyone who traps fur-bearing animals in Big Thicket National Preserve must have a Big Thicket fur-bearing trapping permit. All trappers wishing to trap fur-bearing animals must apply in person and may trap in only one unit. You must show your current Texas Trapping License to obtain a Big Thicket fur-bearing trapping permit, a new requirement for the 2015-16 season. And trappers who failed to return their harvest cards for the 2014-15 season will not be eligible to trap fur-bearing animals in Big Thicket National Preserve during the 2015-16 season.