2014 Duck Hunting Review – Dogs, Boats and Blinds

2014 was a great year in Texas for duck hunting. We never get a ton of ducks in Texas but I still enjoy hunting them and all of the adventures and learnings that I accumulate during the short season.  I always find time to innovate my hunting approaches a little bit each year. It’s also fun to look back and appreciate just how rich and satisfying it is to hunt ducks in Texas.

Federal Duck Hunting Reports

Duck Hunting Report of Yellow and Green Mail Folder
Duck Hunting Report
I don’t remember doing this but I must have.  The Federal Fish & Wildlife Service sent me a large packet of envelopes and asked me to report each duck that I harvested in 2014.  I probably signed up for it but don’t remember.  I did it – not because I had to but because I wanted to.  It wasn’t hard at all – the instructions were clear and easy.  Makes me wonder who get’s to open all those duck and goose envelopes!

Boat Duck Hunting Blind

Green and Silver Duck Hunting Boat and White and Brown Grass Blind
Duck Hunting Boat and Blind
I mainly hunt the river and ducks seem to congregate in the shallow pools or deep water.  I suspect they prefer the shallow pools but go to the deep water when they are gun shy.  It’s hard to hunt deep water on the river because the banks are usually steep. I built this rig so I could anchor right on the shore and still stay hidden but close to the deep water.  It worked fine after I put a small ladder on the front so the dog could get in and out.  It is made from simple PVC pipe and Avery grass mats.  The frame folds down for traveling and the grass mats just hang on little hooks on the front of the frame.  It’s not sexy but it does get the job done!
[ad#BHIT Rectangle]

Trust Your Dove Hunting Dog

Trust the Orange and White Dove Hunting Dog
Trust the Dove Hunting Dog
Trust the dog!  Every time I tell her that she’s just pointing at nonsense, she proves me wrong – don’t even know why I doubt her anymore.  This was a tough find for her and she WOULD NOT leave until I gave her the bird to “retrieve.” Trust Your Dog!

Texas Dove Hunting Rainbows

Dove Hunting Rainbow over a brown and grey cut cotton field
Dove Hunting Rainbow
I love a Texas Dove Hunt!  We are very blessed to have an enormous, year-round population of white wing and mourning doves.  We also have plenty of ECDs as well.  Our dove season begins in September just as Summer is cooling off and Fall is arriving with rain storms.  Rains during a Texas dove hunt are common and usually a source of complaint as guns and hunters get wet and grouchy.  Occasionally, it takes a rainbow to remind me that the rain is a good thing and that it might be better to just enjoy it as it passes.  I hope you have some rainbows on your dove hunts as well.

Appreciating the Bird Hunting Harvest

Upland Bird Hunting Trip Souvenirs of Grey, Black, Brown, Red and Blue Feathers
Upland Bird Hunting Trip Souvenirs
I make an annual “Big Trip” to hunt birds in other states.  This year was Oregon and Idaho.  Since I’m traveling for a few weeks at a time, it is just not possible to keep the birds I harvest until I return home.  I always find a good home for my harvests but discovered a new approach this year that brought (and continues to bring) many smiles to my face.  For each species I harvest, I save a few small tail feathers to remind me of the hunt.  This year’s trip included Ruff Grouse, Blue Grouse, Huns and Sharptail Grouse.  I had many smiles this year.

Accidents Happen when Bird Hunting in Texas

Orange and White Quail Hunting Dog Accident with Pink Skin and Purple Stitches
Quail Hunting Dog Accident
Jill, my Brittany hunting dog is 6 years old and knows about fences and bard wire – as long as she can see them.  This year, we hunted pheasants in North Texas in the pivot corners.  One place was just full of birds but also had a lot of old farm trash – including barb wire.  Jill caught her leg on one pretty bad on opening day.  It’s hard to find a vet late Saturday in Po-Dunk Tx so I took her to Lubbock.  The very nice vet stitched her up good as new and she was back in the field in 10 days.  Yeah, we missed the Sunday of opening weekend but I wouldn’t want to hunt without her – would you?

Those Damn Airboats!

Duck Hunting crew of 4 hunters on a Silver Airboat with Orange and White Dog
Duck Hunting on an Airboat
There are only 2 good parts to an airboat ride – getting to where you’re going and getting off at the end.  Everything in between is just ugly.  But, if you’re going to hunt ducks on the TX Gulf Coast, you’re going to need a guide with an airboat to get to the good spots.  Otherwise, you’re probably going to be limited to pintails and redheads.  Get a guide with an airboat but bundle up and get some goggles and ear protection.  The ride is worth it and the complaining afterward always good for a laugh or two.

The Best Duck Hunting Guide in Rockport

Duck Hunting Guide in camoflage asleep on brown grass
Duck Hunting Guide
This is actually the ONLY TIME I’ve ever seen Capt Brent Hopkins take a nap – and he was just fooling for the picture.  Brent is the best duck hunting guide in Rockport Texas – Ace In The Hole Guide Service.  He’s the hardest working and most successful duck hunting guide I’ve ever met – and I’ve met and hunted with a LOT of them.

Mixed Bag from Texas Duck Hunting

KWP-020515-12 This was a late season treat for me hunting ducks on the river. We don’t see mallards on the river very much – mostly gadwalls – so it was a treat to put one in the bag along with the Gadwalls, wigeon and Teal.  It’s days like this that have me already excited to hunt ducks on 2015!

Summary of 2014 Duck Hunting Review – Dogs, Boats and Blinds

Help the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service when you can – they determine when and how we can hunt and real data helps make better decisions.  Try hunting a new way – build a new blind or try a different spot – you might be surprised and you’ll get to experiment and possibly discover something new!  Trust your dog – it’s always a better than even bet.  Take a minute to enjoy the rainbows when you hunt – they soon pass.  Watch out for your duck hunting buddy getting into an accident – and take care of them quickly.  Keep souvenirs from your hunts – they will make you smile during the long hot Summer!  Get a guide with an airboat but be prepared for a heck of a ride. Contact Brent Hopkins if you want to hunt ducks in Rockport Texas – he’s the best.  Lastly, enjoy your harvest bag but more important, enjoy your hunts – you only get to do them once!

[sc:catlinks]

Argentina Duck Hunting – Wow!

Argentina duck hunting is the “little sister” of Argentina Dove Hunting.  While they don’t have ducks in the same quantity as doves, they do have a LOT of ducks.  And, the ducks they have are almost all unique to the Southern hemisphere.  It’s a bit more expensive to hunt ducks in Argentina but you end up shooting less so it is “theoretically” about the same price.  I guess it depends on the size of your shotgun shell bill after a dove hunt – mine was rather large.  By contrast, I hunted ducks for 4 days with 1 dove hunt and 1 pigeon/parakeet hunt and only shot 45 boxes.  On dove hunts, I typically shoot as much as 80 boxes per day. The best part of our Argentina duck hunt was the amazing number of crazy shots that were successful.  Yes, we did have large piles of dead ducks.  You won’t see that here because that’s not the point.  What was magnificent was the superb scenery, a steady stream of ducks arriving about every 5 minutes, long shots with a 20ga, shooting lead, crazy double and quarduple shots with my buddy Larry and our host.  Puelo Expeditions, Ramiro and his superb team delivered so far beyond our expectations that we were continually surprised and amazed.  Puelo Expeditions should be your first choice for Argentina Duck Hunting if you want a superb, finest personal experience. You can get a little taste of the action Argentina Duck Hunting in the video.

Argentina Duck Hunting Sunrise

Blue Sky, Grey Clouds and Green Grass on an Argentina Duck Hunt Sunrise
Argentina Duck Hunt Sunrise
I dare you to show me a duck hunter who doesn’t have a massive collection of sunrise photos.  We hunted ducks in Argentine just South of Buenos Aires.  The topography reminded me very much of the Katy Prairie outside Houston, TX.  Pampas, ponds, reeds and many many ducks. It just so happens that this morning turned into a fantastic pigeon hunt before the ducks even woke up!  We had hundreds of pigeons come right over the duck blind out of the group of trees in the right of the photo.  We just turned around and shot pigeons for 30 minutes or so until the ducks woke up and joined them.  You can’t find that in the US!

Yellow Billed Pintails from Duck Hunting Argentina

Duck Hunting Speckled Grey Yellow Billed Pintail
Duck Hunting Yellow Billed Pintail
A big part of duck hunting is species identification.  At some point, almost every duck hunter turns into a species hunter since species identification is so important to our game laws.  The species we saw in South America were almost all unique to South America.  This surprised me and turned out to be an enormous treat for us.
[ad name=”BHIT Rectangle”]

Southern Shoveler

Red, Blue, Green and Orange Southern Shoveler Duck Hunting
Southern Shoveler Duck Hunting
Yeah, they have spoonies down there too.  I’m not a fan of spoonies because they just don’t have much meat on them.  They are also pretty easy to identify in flight with that big ol’ honker they have mounted up front.  The Southern species is redder than the northern species but everything else is about the same. It was a fun duck to shoot but not really what I was after.

Southern Screamer

Grey and Black Southern Screamer with Pink Legs
Southern Screamer
Seriously!  These aren’t huntable birds and we didn’t shoot any.  They do make one hell of a racket though and truly deserve their name.

Southern Wigeon Duck Hunting

White, Black and Green Duck Hunting Southern Wigeon
Duck Hunting Southern Wigeon
I love hunting wigeon.  I like their wingbeat pattern and how they will work a call and decoys.  I also think they are the prettiest duck out there.  So, I was quite delighted to harvest several while duck hunting in Argentina. I think the sourthern species is even more beautiful than their northern cousins.

Silver Teal Duck Hunting

Speckled, Blue, Green, Black and Brown Silver Teal Duck Hunting
Silver Teal Duck Hunting
This is my favorite duck of the entire Argentine duck hunting trip.  We were relatively early in the season as we hunted the first week of May.  Since the southern hemisphere is six months opposite the northern hemisphere, their duck hunting season is 6 months opposite of ours. Since we were early in the season, not many ducks had begun migration.  So, we hunted mostly local ducks.  This was very different that hunting local ducks up here.  Most of the local ducks where we hunted were teal and they are my very favorite.  The silver teal was the scarcest species of teal we saw.  This photo was taken in a teal hole (small pond filled with reeds with a small open area in the middle) where we were literally bombarded by teal one day.  So many, that they were literally swimming right up to our blind!

My First Cinnamon Teal hunting Ducks in Argentina

Brown, Blue and Green Cinnamon Teal Duck Hunt
Cinnamon Teal Duck Hunt
I live in Texas and are just a tiny bit too far east to see cinnamon teal.  I didn’t expect to see a cinnamon while hunting duck in Argentina but I knew this guy as soon as he came by the blind.  What a treat to get my first cinnamon on a duck hunting in Argentina.

Rings, Silvers, Cinnamons and some Damn Parakeets

Speckled Black/White Ring and Silver/Green Silver Teal Ducks
Ring and Silver Teal Ducks
Ring teal are another example of unique southern duck species.  They are very noticeable in flight due to the ver white ring on their wings.  We also shot parakeets.  I love shooting parakeets.  You can hear them coming as they chatter to each other in flight.  They usually fly in pairs which offers a very nice double on a regular basis.  I love shooting parakeets so much that I’ll pass up a duck shot to take one at parakeets.  No, they aren’t good for anything but they are a huge pest in Argentina.  They eat grain just like dove but they use their very sharp beak to chop off the heads of mature grain stalks rather than just pick up seeds off the ground like the doves.  Farmers hate them and are generally happy to let you shoot them. Below the silver and ring teal are a few speckled teal.  Speckled teal were by far the most common teal we saw and shot.

Parakeets and Pigeons, Oh My!

Green and Blue Parakeet and Grey and White Pigeon Hunting
Parakeet and Pigeon Hunting
We had an afternoon hunt for pigeons and parakeets at our specific request. If you want this type of hunt, make sure you request it ahead of time.  It is common to shoot a few pigeons and parakeets while hunting other species but it is very unique to hunt them at their roost.  It’s harder than it sounds.  Hunting the roost only provides a concentration of pigeons and parakeets, we didn’t shoot them out of the trees or their nest.  But, it did provide us a place to hunt them with sufficient regular traffic that it made a hunt.  They roost in very very tall eucalyptus trees and fly in and out all day long.  It was fun to build a big stack of green birds and then go have a great pigeon asado (argentina bar-b-que) afterwards.  The pigeons are very tasty.  I can’t say the same for the parakeets.

End of the Argentina Duck Hunt

Grey Water, Green Plants and Red Shotgun Shells after an Outstanding Argentina Duck Hunt
Outstanding Argentina Duck Hunt
Every great hunt has to end and this photo summed it up the best.  Man, we had some amazing shooting, shots and laughs.  What else could a duck hunter ask for in a duck hunting trip to Argentina?

Summary of Duck Hunting in Argentina

It is the same but different and better. It’s just like hunting up here but you have ducks about every five minutes and you never have to keep count.  Oh, and you can also shoot lead.  Go!

[sc:catlinks]

Texas Duck Hunting Tips and Secrets

The end of bird hunting season in Texas is always bittersweet.  I always find some great memories and lessons as I reflect back on my hunts and experiences.  This season was Good for Texas duck huntin, Excellent for dove hunting in Texas and Finally Improving for quail.  I’m about rested now and looking forward to my farming, habitat improvement and quail raising during the long hot Texas summer days as me and Jill dream about the exciting Texas bird hunts as have lined up for this Fall

Still Quiet Mornings in a Duck Blind

Blue and Grey Fog on Reflective River while Texas River Duck Hunt
Texas River Duck Hunt
I hope I never tire of watching the fog clear and sun rise with a cup of coffee and my favorite duck hunting dog in a duck blind.  We’re fortunate in Texas to have a variety of Winter weather – it provides a never ending carousel of sights and sounds from my duck blinds.  We’re also fortunate to have a wide variety of places to hunt ducks in Texas.  Rivers are generally open to anyone if you have a boat and can find a launch.  It can get crowded and I’ve been known to camp out to get my favorite spot.

Getting Portable to Hunt Ducks

Orange and White Bird Dog with Yellow Grass Mat and Camoflage Gun Case as a Mobile Duck Hunt Rig
Mobile Duck Hunt Rig
The river is very convenient for me to hunt ducks – literally right behind my house.  But, those ducks are smart and don’t seem to want to land where it is easiest to get my boat.  In those cases, it’s time to get mobile!  I find that a backpack with coffee and shells, a small set of light weight decoys, a good gun case and a rolled up grass mat with conduit posts serves me very well.  I land the boat and start the hike.  Dog likes this a lot!  It doesn’t seem to take much blind building – just a grass mat and a few posts is all it takes to break up our outline and put the big surprise on the ducks who think they’ve found a safe spot.
[ad name=”BHIT Rectangle”]

Little Duck Boat!

Camoflage Shallow Water Duck Hunting Boat on Grey Concrete by White Building
Shallow Water Duck Hunting Boat
Yeah, I’m that guy – I have 2 duck boats.  I love my Beaver Tail Final Attack for hunting where I can’t get the big duck boat launched.  This little sweety has a 2.5 horse outboard and a great little cover to keep the rain out.  THe biggest benefit of this boat is that it has rolling wheels built into the transom so it can be easily dragged. It’s just big enough for me & Dog and some dekes.

Get Skinny with the Little Duck Boat

Black Outboard Motor on a Camoflage Duck Hunting Boat Motor Mount
Duck Hunting Boat Motor Mount
Sometimes I need to get into some very skinny water in my Little Duck Boat. I had a buddy fabricate a motor mount/lift to get my motor up as high as possible.  The cavitation plate is just above the top of the water tunnel and I can run in about 3 inches of water.  I give up a little power for this but I tear up fewer props and end up having to get out of the boat less often.  I’ll take that tradeoff!

Big Floods in Texas Duck Hunting Rivers

Brown River Water and Green Grass in a Flooded Duck Hunting River
Flooded Duck Hunting River
We had a couple big floods this Fall and it really hurt the duck hunting.  The boat launch is actually another 30 feet below the water in that picture!  The biggest problem, which actually helped if you scouted enough, was that the flood cleared all the duck food out of the river and filled up their alternative resting and feeding spots.  In the past, ducks would roost on mud holes but need to come to the river to eat. The floods reversed this situation this year.  But, a little extra scouting – on foot mind you – led me to find a few spots where there was still food in the river.  This concentrated them a little bit on the river but the roost ponds still had plenty of food so it was hard to draw them to the river.  I didn’t get a single limit hunt on the river this year.

Texas Gulf Coast Duck Hunting

Black Shadows on a Red, Orange and Yellow Texas Coast Duck Hunt Sunrise
Texas Coast Duck Hunt Sunrise
I also hunt ducks on the Texas Gulf Coast.  After hunting down in the river, I always enjoy the big skies and bold sun rises that the Texas Gulf Coast has for me.  How can it get any better than this?

Get an Airboat for Texas Gulf Coast Duck Hunting!

Two People Dressed in Camoflage Duck Hunting on an Airboat
Duck Hunting on an Airboat
You can hunt ducks on the Texas gulf Coast without an airboat but you are going to be limited to mostly redheads and some pintails that don’t mind the box blinds.  As the season progresses, even the stupid readheads get blind shy.  If you want to get into skinny water where the cool ducks go, you’ll need to get an airboat.  If your guide doesn’t have an airboat, you’re either going to hunt a box blind or walk a long way through the mud and shallows.  All that said, the best part of an airboat ride is getting off that SOB at the end of the trip – nothing colder when hunting ducks in Texas!

Quick Boat Rig for Duck Hunting Blind

White Truck with Green Boat and Silver Motor for a Deep River Duck Hunting Blind
Deep River Duck Hunting Blind
Some of the duck on the river where I hunt in Texas like to hit the deeper water where the river banks are steep.  These banks are also pretty thin and don’t have much cover. It’s hard to hunt a boat based duck blind in the river and I like to be flexible and adapt to the conditions I find when I finally get where I’m going to hunt ducks.  I built a quick & dirty fold up duck blind for my boat with some light PVC tubing and some grass mats.  The grass mats just hang on the tubing and the tubing rack folds down for travel.  This let’s me get into the steep and deep areas on the river and surprise the ducks when they go into a spot that they usually aren’t hunted.  I love the looks on their little faces when I surprise them!

Steep and Deep Duck Hunting on a Texas River

Blue Fog over Green River in a Deep River Duck Hunting Spot
Deep River Duck Hunting Spot
This is a new sight for me from my new duck boat blind.  I found that I needed two extra things.  I needed a boat ladder so Dog can get in and out of the boat in deep water.  I buit a light one from 2x6s and spent a brief afternoon training Dog to use it.  She didn’t like it but quickly understood that was the way to get to the ducks.  I also had to build some extension lines for my dekes because this water is 12 feet deep and my cords were only 3 feet.  Once I got those figured out, we had some great hunts from the boat blind.

My Secret Teal Hunting Hole

Blue and Orange Sunrise in a Secret Teal Hunting Location
Secret Teal Hunting Location
I hunted ducks on a new lake in Texas this year.  This lake is mostly rocky bottom and doesn’t have much duck food.  About the only thing I ever saw out there were divers who went out to the big middle and wouldn’t decoy.  I’m not much for divers anyway.  But, while I was hunting, I noticed that flocks of teal were working a little creek.  When I scouted the little creek I found a couple shallow pools with food and the teal were in there heavy.  So, I got up a little earlier, shortened my choke, grabbed some #6s and setup on a stool right beside a dead tree.  Lo and behold the teal come thundering in there right at daylight!  My biggest challenge is getting far enough back from the dekes to have time to swing on more than one duck at a time!  This is my new teal honey hole and I love it.  Nothing like having a hot limit before sunrise!

Summary of Texas Duck Hunting Tips & Secrets

Texas duck hunting season is over and I’m sad and glad.  I had many many amazing adventures this year and learned a ton.  Mobility is important if you hunt public rivers so be prepared to land the boat and do some walking to get where the ducks are.  I also like my second duck boat to get into places where I can’t launch a boat – less hunter competition as well since these are only available to kayak duck hunters and I don’t see many of those.  Floods are a blessing and a curse.  You need an airboat to hunt ducks on the Texas Gulf Coast. Airboats are a necessary evil. You can hunt the steep and deep parts of the river if you can make a boat blind.  Scout and keep scouting – the ducks will tell you their secrets of you are willing to look and listen.

[sc:catlinks]