I Miss Texas Waterfowl Hunting

Wow – I really miss Texas waterfowl hunting – especially duck hunting. The ducks were late getting off this year – I continued seeing them on local ponds until late April. We had a magnificent year with a huge duck hatch in the prairie pothole region and then a scarcity of water in Texas to really concentrate them. I changed my hunting tactics a little this year by un-joining my duck hunting club in favor of purchasing a john boat and hunting the river right behind my house. This also gave me more opportunities to take my kids duck hunting with me. Rather than a long trip and over night stay to hunt ducks, I could sleep in until 6AM and still be on the river and setup by shooting time. Now, all I’m left with are some great memories and pictures to while my time until Texas waterfowl season starts again and it’s time for some duck hunting in Texas.

The Majesty of Texas Waterfowl Hunting Weather

Early Morning Texas Waterfowl Hunting on the River
Fog Sets In On Early Morning Texas Waterfowl Hunting

One of the advantages of Texas waterfowl hunting in Central Texas is the wide variety of weather conditions – there is just never a dull moment. I particularly favor the cold, foggy mornings when it’s hard to see but easy to hear. It’s like magic when the ducks just appear out of nowhere into your spread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy Portable Duck Hunting Blinds

Yellow Grass Portable Texas Waterfowl Blind on a Sandbank in a River
Grass & Conduit Portable Texas Waterfowl Blind

I really enjoy hunting the river and the amazing array of choices for where to hunt for Texas waterfowl. I know a lot of duck hunters like to get there very early and get “their” spot and I don’t mind. I like variety and portability. I made up a quick and dirty portable duck blind that I can easily carry and setup almost anywhere. I made it out of 6 conduit pipes and a couple of grass mats. The only drawback is that my dog has trouble seeing out of it.

 

 

 

 

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Take Your Kids Duck Hunting in Texas

White and Red Dog with Blond Girl Texas Waterfowl Hunting
Take Your Dogs and Kids Texas Waterfowl Hunting

I absolutely love hunting with my daughters – but one at a time. They don’t shoot yet but are always ready and willing to join me on an outing. This precious one on one time is too valuable to pass up. Sometimes we don’t even have much to say to each other – just the experience of being together and sharing an adventure hunting Texas waterfowl is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Dog and a Full Strap of Texas Waterfowl

Red and White Brittany Texas Waterfowl Retriever with Grey Ducks
Unusual Texas Waterfowl Retriever

Another advantage to hunting on the river is the availability of natural brush to create your own blind. There always seems to be plenty of downfall laying around to quickly build a blind. Now, it won’t be the most concealed blind that you’ve ever seen but come on – they’re ducks! I think a good spread and sitting still until they commit is good enough – my dog and the full strap of Texas waterfowl seem to indicate that I might be on to something.

 

 

 

 

 

Unique Bird from Goose Hunting in Texas

Rust Head Blue Goose from Goose Hunting in Texas
Rust Head Blue Trophy Goose from Goose Hunting in Texas

I also really enjoy a goose hunting – especially snow goose hunting. Snow geese are so very wary that it makes hunting them a real challenge. I especially enjoy picking out the blue geese among the flocks of white snow geese – that’s an even rarer treat. I shot this one in a late Texas waterfowl season conservation order hunt and was drawn to it’s curious red/orange head. A little research pointed out that these birds get that color on their head from eating corn that has a lot of rust in it. It was the first one like this that I’d ever seen.

 

 

 

 

Summary of Texas Waterfowl Hunting

I miss hunting Texas waterfowl – especially the ducks. I love the wide variety of weather conditions we have for duck hunting in Texas. I’m enjoying my change from a hunting club to a wilder public hunt location on a local river. I’ve developed an easily portable duck blind that allows me to setup almost anywhere I find ducks to hunt. While I do know that a duck blind is important, I also think that’s it’s easy to over do it and not give enough priority to the spread, sitting still and waiting until they commit. I also enjoy goose hunting in Texas – particularly for the unique birds among the large flocks. I miss hunting Texas waterfowl and can’t wait until it starts up again in September.

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Pheasant, Goose, Duck and Quail Hunting in Texas and New Mexico

I combined a “big trip” with my dog for quail hunting with my annual opening weekend pheasant hunting trip.  Instead of flying, I loaded the pup in the truck and drove to Amarillo, Texas for pheasant hunting, then to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico for 3 days of quail hunting and then back home.  It was a LONG trip and I also managed to squeeze in a little goose hunting in North Texas to go with my quail hunting.

 

 

 

Pheasant Hunting in the Southern Range

Tough Pheasant Hunting Weather with Cold Temperatures and Snow Covered Fields
Tough Pheasant Hunting Weather

I had my annual pheasant hunt as a prelude to my big quail hunting trip.  Pheasant hunting weather in North Texas is always a crap shoot.  I think I’ve seen every different type of weather up there.  This year, it was very cold with a light snow on the ground.  This wasn’t a great year for pheasants in North Texas due to the drouth.  Compounding this problem – or in some cases helping it – the farmers who usually leave some stubble in their fields had baled literally everything n- including the cotton stalks.  This had the effect of either eliminating their cover entirely or concentrating them in the sparse cover that was available.  As usual, you can’t expect to go the very farthest Southern range of pheasants in North Texas and expect to bag a limit every time.  We had a lot of walking and some great dog work but getting in range of the few we saw was very challenging.

 

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Goose Hunting in North Texas

North Texas Goose Hunting Spread using White and Grey Full Body Decoys
North Texas Goose Hunting Spread

Instead of two days of pheasant hunting, we elected to hunt geese in North Texas near Dalhart.  it was a clear cold day and there were plenty of lesser Canada geese in the area roosting on large water.  Goose hunting in Texas, or goose hunting anywhere for that matter, is always a challenge.  Those birds are smart!  WE did manage to draw in a few birds but the majority of the geese elected to head in a different direction that day.  Goose hunting tends to be all about being on the X – being where they want to be.  Scouting helps a lot to improve the odds but good old fashioned luck is always a critical factor when hunting geese in Texas.

 

 

 

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Turkey Restoration and Hunting

Texas Turkeys NOT for Hunting on a Road in a North Texas Neighborhood
Texas Turkeys NOT for Hunting

As I was driving out from Amarillo on Monday morning to go to New Mexico for quail hunting, a flock of neighborhood turkeys were out on the road looking for some food.  A blistering Norther had blown in overnight bringing lots of snow and freezing rain and the turkeys were hungry.  I’m not a turkey hunter but I do remember when I was a kid that turkeys tended to be a myth.  Congrats to all of the great associations and habitat management that has taken place over the last 25 years that has restored this amazing bird to huntable populations.

 

 

 

 

 

Valley of Fire

Quail Hunting Near Valley of Fire Showing Black Volcanic Rocks
Quail Hunting Near Valley of Fire

My journey from Amarillo Texas to Truth or Consequences New Mexico for quail hunting was planned over two major interstate highways.  Much to my surprise, the interstates were closed in New Mexico due to the storm and I had to take the back roads.  I got off the interstate, bought a paper map – imagine that – and then just kept heading South and West with the hope that I’d get to ToC without a major mishap.  Turns out that it was a wonderful drive through the back roads of Eastern New Mexico with a ton of great sights to see.  The Valley of Fire is an amazing place where a volcano “leaked” some lava to the surface a couple thousand years ago.  New Mexico is rough country anyway but this was incredibly rough!

 

 

 

 

 

Quail Hunting and Tracking in the Snow

Quail Tracks in the Snow on Gravel
Quail Tracks in the Snow

My first of 3 days of quail hunting started in the mountains east of ToC New Mexico.  The goal was to bag one each of Mearns Quail, Gambels Quail and Scaled quail.  On Day one we were after all or any of them.  The storm over the previous few days provided us with a very unique opportunity that I’d never had before – tracking quail in the snow.  New Mexico is BIG country and requires that you cover a lot of ground when you are hunting quail.  It helped tremendously that we were able to see quail tracks in the snow which allowed us to spend a little more time truck scouting and a little less time foot scouting.  Nevertheless, I covered about 8 miles this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Collection for Wildlife

Grey Concrete Quail Water Retention Device in a Bare Canyon
Quail Water Retention Device

New Mexico Game and Fish have built numerous large rainfall collectors to aid the wildlife and improve the quail hunting.  In Texas, we use a much smaller version that drains into a 55 gallon drum.  This unit was easily 15 steps on each side and drained into a large underground cistern.  These divces typically hold some quail for hunting but the drouth in the Southwest made finding birds a challenge this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working the Arroyos for Quail

Tough Quail Hunting Territory with Steep Slopes in a Brushy Ravine
Tough Quail Hunting Territory

Day 2 of quail hunting was in the arroyos beside the Rio Grande river.  There are numerous arroyos and they have been modified to retain as much rainwater as possible to minimize downstream flooding.  These arroyos make perfect spots for hunting quail – I wish we had some of these, and the public land, to hunt quail in Texas.  That said, hiking, working and hunting these arroyos definitely requires some great dog work.  They are intricate with lots of little hiding places and  you need a dog to sniff out every possible nook and cranny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quail Hunting on the Rio Grande River

Quail Hunting on the Rio Grande River Canyon with small Green Brush
Quail Hunting on the Rio Grande River

While quail hunting, I tended to work the canyon bottoms and let my dog work the edges and tops.  Sometime vice versa when I got tired of looking at the canyon walls and needed some better scenery.  I logged about 8 miles/day and I know my dog logged at least 5 times that working for me to hunt quail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Hunting on the Rio Grande River

Beautiful Red, Orange and Gold Duck Hunting Sunset
Duck Hunting Sunset

Since we were on the Rio Grande for quail hunting and there were ducks working the river, we took the opportunity in the evening to hunt ducks.  I found it amazing that ducks could be found in the desert.  We bagged a few ducks as they worked up and down the river feeding in the evening and then enjoyed the magnificent New Mexico sunset after hunting ducks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracking and Quail Hunting

Mearns Quail Hunting Tracks in Grey Gravel in a Canyon Bed
Mearns Quail Hunting Tracks

Day 3 of my quail hunting was back to the mountains east of ToC to find some blues and Mearns quail.  I was mostly interested in Mearns quail so we spent the majority of the time working closely and carefully along the sandy bottoms of canyons near oak brush where Mearns quail like to hide.  We saw plenty of tracks that were obviously Mearns Quail but never managed to find a covey.  This was the last of 5 days of hunting for my pup and she was getting pretty tired.  She never failed to answer the call but she also no longer jumped back into the truck after a swing through an area.  She had the will but the energy was draining quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Is What You Experience – Not the Size of the Game Bag

Orange and White Brittany Quail Hunting Dog Near and Ancient Oak Tree
Quail Hunting Dog

I can’t say this often enough.  Quail hunting or hunting ducks, makes no difference.  The true benefit and enjoyment is seeing something new with your best friend.  I never fail to be amazed by the desert and what has adapted to thrive there.  I found this one scrub oak tree that was only about 10 feet tall but had a base and trunk that indicated that the tree was very old.  How long had that tree been there and how many other quail hunters had it shaded?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headed Home from Quail Hunting

Exhausted Brittany Quail Hunting Dog Sound Alseep in a Truck Seat
Exhausted Quail Hunting Dog

Heading home after 5 days of pheasant, goose, duck and quail hunting is both relaxing and sad.  It was an 11 hour drive from ToC back to Austin where I live and most of that drive is horribly boring through West Texas.  My pup was exhausted and slept the entire way home – knocked out!  She is my first quail hunting dog and I never cease to be amazed at what she can and is willing to do for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Pheasant, Goose, Duck and Quail Hunting

All in all it was an amazing quail hunting trip and I’m already looking forward to more in the future.  We went pheasant hunting in Amarillo and goose hunting in North Texas – both with marginal results in the game bag.  We braved the snow storm and back roads of New Mexico to hunt Gambel, Scaled and Mearns quail in the mountains of Southern New Mexico.  We also managed to squeeze in a duck hunt along the Rio Grande River.  After 5 days of hard hunting, we turned back South and headed home – two exhausted hunting buddies with some fantastic memories of some great quail hunting.

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Public Duck Hunting in Texas

I love duck hunting in Texas.  I used to belong to a duck hunting club on the Katy Prairie but resigned my membership this year and bought a small john boat and motor, along with a public hunting permit.  I live very near the COlorado River and wanted to experience more duck hunting and less duck shooting.  Well, I definitely got my wish and I’ve had more amazing adventures than I can remember.  Being near the river – really, about 15 minutes – has allowed me to log well over 25 duck hunting days and I still have a month to go.  Duck hunting in Texas has never been better for me.

 

Public Duck Hunting in Texas

Grey Muddy Water and Barren Trees in a Texas Duck Hunting Public Access Pond
Texas Duck Hunting Public Access Pond

The Texas Public Hunting Permit also get’s you a booklet with maps, limits and description of all of the places for duck hunting in Texas.  Oh yeah, it also includes other waterfowl, doves, quail and large and small game.  I’m not so interested in those, although the dove hunting was pretty good this year.  Since I’m near the Colorado River, that is my prime spot for duck hunting in Texas.  A little internet scouting for side ponds, rapids/riffles, sand islands and deep holes is the place to start.  Google Maps and Google Earth are both good tools and seem to use the same set of base maps.  That said, nothing beats actually getting in the boat and doing some real scouting.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year, and I’m a neophyte duck hunter, is that the ducks are ALWAYS where they want to be and seldom where I think they would like to be.  Early morning scouting can provide some clues and late afternoon can provide some more clues but nothing beats just getting out there and giving it a try.

 

Limit Duck Hunts in Texas

Siz Black and Grey Puddle Ducks in a Texas Duck Hunting Mixed Bag
Texas Duck Hunting Mixed Bag

Since it is public duck hunting in Texas, don’t be surprised if you find someone “already in your spot”.  My experience is that this is generally OK and most Texas duck hunters are polite enough to either let you hunt with them or not object if you just move on down a little ways.  Ask nicely, be generous and mind your manners when you’re hunting with new friends – you’ll probably find that you make new friends and find a new hunting buddy.  I found several this year and a hunt shared is always better than a hunt alone.  Also, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect limit hunts every time.  If you want that, then a duck club is probably more in line with what you want.  That said, there are limit days and they are magnificent.  I am particularly impressed with the wide variety of ducks that winter on the Colorado River.  I’ve come to believe that the river is some of our finest duck hunting in Texas.

 

Duck Hunting Gear in Texas

Orange and White Brittany with Camo Ground Cover and Green Backpack as a Texas Duck Hunting Rig
Texas Duck Hunting Rig

It doesn’t take a lot of equipment for duck hunting in Texas.  A dog is very helpful since you never know what you’re going to find on the bottom of the river – it might be sand or rocks or it might be 2 feet of mud.  I’ve cross trained my bird dog as a retriever and she does just fine.  After that, a small backpack, ground cloth, shotgun and a few decoys is really all you need.  You probably won’t see huge flights of ducks working the river like you do on the coast.  So, a smaller spread seems to work just fine for duck hunting in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

Wide Variety of Texas Ducks

Six Various Puddle Ducks make a Texas Duck Hunting Limit
Texas Duck Hunting Limit

Another nice mixed bag from duck hunting in Texas.  Again, don’t expect limit hunts every time – some days you just get lucky and find yourself on the X.  Otherwise, you’re going to see single and pairs but they do seem to work three times each morning starting a 7AM and then again around 8AM and 9AM.  It really depends on the sunshine and number of other hunters on the river.  Less sunshine is good and more hunters are good as well.  There is plenty of river and plenty of ducks for everyone to enjoy duck hunting in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

Scouting for Duck Hunting in Texas

Orange and White Brittany Spaniel Working as a Texas Duck Hunting Retriever
Texas Duck Hunting Retriever

I like trying new spots and new times.  I’ve heard the afternoons can be good but I haven’t found the right combination yet.  Nevertheless, I do like getting out in the afternoon to do some scouting for Texas duck hunting and my dog never denies me the chance to go duck hunting in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Hunting Blinds in Texas Rivers

Brittany with Ducks abd shotgun showing Texas Duck Hunting Results
Texas Duck Hunting Results

My experience is that duck blinds aren’t really as important as most people think – at least not on the river for the number of ducks we have.  I guess if you’re hunting a high volume pond it might make a difference but a simple stack of sticks to break up the lines seems to do just fine.  Now, they don’t decoy all the way in and will get smart about 25 yards out but that’s well within my range and gathering a pile of loose brush and sticks is easier than hauling a complicated blind out into the field for duck hunting in Texas.  Even my bright orange and white bird dog doesn’t seem to scare the ducks off.

 

 

 

 

 

Small Islands for Duck Hunting in Texas

Sparse Island with Hunter Showing a Texas Duck Hunting Blind
Texas Duck Hunting Blind

Island in the river seem to be an excellent place for duck hunting in Texas.  They are even better when they have some loose brush to build a redneck duck blind.  An added attraction is that the small islands also tend to have rapids or riffles near by and the morning ducks seem to like these areas.  It also helps that the rapids/riffles wiggle my decoys and I don’t need a jerk rig.  That said, I’ve lost more than my fair share of duck decoys this season.  I have to imagine that there is some slough near the mouth of the Colorado River that has just thousands of loose decoys at the end of the season – I’d sure like to find that place – would certainly save me a lot of money replacing lost decoys for my duck hunting in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Duck Hunting in Texas

Public duck hunting in Texas is just fine – plenty of opportunities and locations – just make sure you’re legal with the Public Hunting Permit when you get your license.  Do your scouting!  It’s OK to ask on the chat boards but a lot of the people there will be snarky about “their secret spots”.  Expect to have to do your own internet and physical scouting.  I like to use a duck hunting trip to a new location as part of my scouting.  I’m out for the adventure rather than the bag limits.  The Texas duck variety is wonderful and it doesn’t take a whole lot of equipment for duck hunting in Texas.  Step out to a new place and meet some new people who can share a boat ride and decoys with you.  A dog helps but isn’t entirely necessary, you’ll just need to be aware of where you’re shooting so your ducks don’t float down river faster than you can retrieve them.  Islands with rapids and riffle also make great places for duck hunting in Texas

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