The Work Begins for a New Season of Texas Duck Hunting
I lost quite a few decoys last year when I was duck hunting in Texas. I hunted mainly in the rivers on the shallow, swift places and the current dragged some of my decoys downstream too far to retrieve. I can’t help but imagine that there is a place where the river dumps into the Gulf that has huge rafts of lost decoys from other guys losing them while they were duck hunting in Texas. I watched the online sales and coupons and when the time was right, I pounced – sort of like another kind of Texas duck hunting, only decoys this time!
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New Decoys for Duck Hunting in Texas
I prefer 2 basic set types when I’m duck hunting in Texas. I like a good sized spread of only teal (blue wings for me) for early teal season. During the full season, I’ve really come to like the mix in the puddler pack of gadwalls, pintails and widgeon – exactly the most popular ducks we see during Texas duck hunting. I also really prefer the Greenhead Gear brand because of their combination of light weight, keel weight distribution, life likeness and price when I can catch them on sale with a coupon.
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Texas Rigs for Duck Decoys on a Texas Duck Hunt
I’m also a big fan of the Texas Rig for my decoys that I use for duck hunting in Texas. The Texas rig makes it very easy to pick and manage a dozen or more decoys. I also like that I can string them with a clip or wrap them for the times I have to backpack into a hole with my decoys in a sack. Yeah, I know I could make the Texas rigs myself but it’s just as easy to buy them ready built from Mojo.
Summary of Summer Preparation for Duck Hunting in Texas
The season for duck hunting in Texas is coming soon and I have a long list of things to do to be prepared. First on my list is repair and replacement of my decoys. I’ve been watching for sales and coupons and that has paid off. Another kind of Texas duck hunting you might say. I’m a big fan of Greenhead Gear and Mojo Texas Rigs. When the boxes arrived in the mail, I just left them boxed in my living room near my chair. It makes me smile every time I walk by as I think about my next adventure duck hunting in Texas.
In November 2011, I had the pleasure of an Argentina dove hunt with Ramiro Allende of Puelo Expeditions. I’ve known Ramiro for quite a few years from his visits to the United States to attend hunting trade shows. I like Ramiro and he’s been very persuasive in his attempts to get me to hunt with him. Finally, the opportunity came up and I said “yes!” I’ve hunted doves in Argentina before and had a great time shooting an enormous volume of birds over 3 days. Ramiro kept telling me that his place was different – he had “balconies”. Yeah, I thought, what does that mean? When I visited Argentina previously with another outfitter, the dove hunting was very much like dove hunting in South Texas – just many many more birds – but the terrain was very similar – flat lands with moderately high brush lines and open fields. Ramiro’s place – Puelo Expeditions – was different – he has balconies! It was an Argentina dove hunt of a lifetime!
Argentina Dove Hunt Balconies
I’ve hunted doves in Texas since I was in my teens – mostly in Texas where the terrain is mostly flat with brush lines and water holes. Ramiro has that as well if you want but he has something even more fun – balconies. What are balconies? Great question. Ramiro’s family ranch in Cordoba is in a more rugged area with large hills that are as little as a couple hundred feet high to some that are several thousand feet high. Ramiro has built shooting stations for his Argentina dove hunt with blinds are various altitudes on the sides of the hills – thus – balconies! No matter how high the doves are flying or what you shooting skills, Ramiro can put you on the birds at an easy, close range with a horizontal shot, a moderately difficult range with a slightly elevated shot or a more difficult range with shots directly overhead of consistently beneath your feet. The balconies are simply cleared areas on the sides of the hills are differing altitudes with convenient brush blinds. This is something that we seldom experience in the United States – not to mention the thousands of birds that fly almost all day long.
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Long Range Argentina Dove Hunt
The doves tend to fly heavier in the morning and afternoon as they migrate to and from the grain fields where they feed during the day. Nevertheless, they will fly all day long and they will fly in numbers sufficient to shoot thousands of shells each day on your Argentina dove hunt if your shoulder and back can stand the punishment. I used one (actually several, I wore a couple out) of Ramiro’s Beretta 20ga semi automatics and was allowed to vary the chokes as I saw fit. I typically shoot a 28ga over/under but was very pleased with Ramiro’s weapons. I was stunned at the performance of the 20ga with a full choke – consistently knocking birds down at greater than 40 yards. Another advantage to shooting from a balcony is the increase in height of the birds – lends itself nicely to very long falls with very long trajectories – something we seldom see in the United States.
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High Overhead Shots from the Balconies
I’m a better than average shooter and enjoy the more challenging shots. I spent time in all of the various stations sampling the variety of distances and angles that Ramiro has to offer. My favorite spot was high overhead shots on incoming and crossing birds. A note of caution though, this type of shooting does tend to wear you out quicker than typical horizontal shooting. This was my favorite part of my Argentina dove hunt.
Lunch and a Siesta on my Argentina Dove Hunt
I’m as rugged as the next guy but I do enjoy creature comforts – and Ramiro knows how to put on a lunch spread – not to mention the fine dining each evening when we returned to the lodge. Each day we enjoyed a delicious, freshly prepared lunch with a variety of meats, vegetable and pastries in the shade of the trees. We followed out lunch with a little siesta but honestly, it was tough to sleep as the birds continued to fly overhead while we were resting. I was in for a short nap to rest my muscles but I declined much sleep since I was there for an Argentina dove hunt – not siestas.
Pigeons on an Argentina Dove Hunt
There are several varieties of pigeons that you will see during your Argentina dove hunt. While there are specific pigeon hunts, you can also find them in among the doves. You can easily recognize them by their size. They are easily three to five times as big as a dove and look like an optical illusion when you see them flying amongst the other doves. They were a little harder to kill, sometimes taking 2 rounds so Iw as quick to spot them to provide me with plenty of opportunity to knock them down.
Dove Hunting from the Balconies
The vertical shots from the middle balconies were my favorites and I found myself returning to those balconies frequently. This was my favorite location during my Argentina dove hunt. Ramiro’s family ranch is a rugged place but he’s done a wonderful job of building cleared areas to hunt from with easy to walk trails between them. Again, the variety of places to shoot along with varying ranges made jhunting with Ramiro a magical adventure.
Argentina Dove Hunt Lodge
No matter what, you do need a place to sleep and eat during your Argentina dove hunt and Ramiro sets a new standard. I’ve stayed in some very nice lodges before. That said, staying with Ramiro was like being treat as an honored guest in his home. The lodge where we stayed was immaculate and nestled in among a large grove of trees with small creeks running throughout the property. The meals were top notch, the scenery was beautiful and relaxing and the service was impeccable.
Summary of an Argentina Dove Hunt from the Balconies
An Argentina dove hunt from the balconies was a very unique and tremendously enjoyable experience. You can easily shoot several thousand rounds during a single day and having a variety of places to see and shoot from adds a spice to a dove hunt that I’ve never experienced before. Ramiro has built balconies at many different altitudes with a variety of shooting ranges and angles. The doves are too many to count and there are occasional pigeons to spice things up. No matter your shooting skills or attention span, Ramiro has something unique to offer. Finally, shooting several thousands doves is hard work and staying at Ramiro’s lodge is to be treated as an honored guest in his own home. If you’re going on an Argentina dove hunt, do yourself a favor and go with Ramiro at Puelo Expeditions.
The anxiously awaited opening day for Texas Dove Hunting Season has arrived. It’s almost a right of passage here in Texas. In fact, since they make Cinco de Mayo a school holiday, they should make Opening Day of Texas Dove Hunting Season a holiday as well – how else are we going to get our kids out hunting? They dove hatch in Texas this year was tremendous – despite the drouth. Generally speaking, we have two kinds of birds. Whitewings, which used to roost in the Rio Grande Valley, have migrated and tend to concentrate in the large trees in towns in a band from Hondo in the West to Houston in the East. This band of cities extends as far North as Austin as well. These birds are here mostly year round. The Mourning doves tend to be more migratory and a weather change can easily push them further South.
Sunflower Fields for Texas Dove Hunting
Sunflower fields are ideal places to hunt doves in Texas. Many farmers and ranchers actually plant fields of sunflowers to either improve their own chances of hunting success or to provide some hunting lease income to an already starved agricultural income picture. The doves tend to flock to seed fields early in the morning just as they come off the roost so a slightly shady spot near a tree line underneath their flight path is a great location for a Texas dove hunt.
Hot Dog Hunting Doves
Opening day is September 1. It is still HOT in Texas and a dog can make all the difference when Texas dove hunting in a seed field. I tried an experiment this year. I purchased a kiddie/doggie bath and a 15 gallon water barrel for my truck. When I arrive at the field, I use the water barrel to fill the doggie bath with a few inches of water to keep the dog cool. The results were exceptional. Her endurance and number of retrieves practically doubled!
Hunting Doves from Town
If you can find the flight path, and a willing land owner, where the town birds – Whitewings usually – are returning to town in the evening from feeding in the seed fields, you’re going to have a consistently great hunt. No matter the weather, those birds are going out to feed mid-day and they are going to have to return to town to roost. Early season shoots will present you with low, fast shots and after the birds have wised up to your location, you’re going to be presented with some tall, towering shots at 40-60 yards. If you find a location like this – keep it a secret!
Low Flying Flocks of Doves
Early in the season, the doves haven’t wised up so you’re going to be presented with a lot of low flying flocks of doves to hunt. Open your chokes and be careful of who’s hunting around you. Enjoy the rock n roll aspect of Texas Dove Hunting!
Later in the season, after they’ve wised up a bit, you will see the flocks spread out and get taller. Tighten your choke, increase your load size and grab plenty of lead. This kind of Texas dove hunting is my absolute favorite!
Evening Hunt at the Water Hole
Doves need water to help them digest the seeds they eat. They tend to spend morning and mid day feeding on loose seed in the fields. In the evening, a water hole can be an amazing place to hunt as they drop by for a drink of water prior to returning to the roost. It’s been a very dry year in Texas and water can be hard to find. If and when you do find it, use your Mojo decoys and grab some good camo for some amazing low shots. This type of Texas dove hunting is classic. Just make sure that your hunting buddies are arranged properly around you and be careful when they go out to pick up their birds.
Ready to Hunt Doves
Good camo and a comfortable stool can make a big difference on your Texas dove hunt. They seem to be slightly sensitive to lighter colors but they are very sensitive to movement. They key is to be absolutely still as they come in – don’t shoot too quick.
Hunting Dog Alert
My Brit is three years old this year and this is her third season. She has really matured well. It can be tough to watch all of the directions and around a water hole, the birds can, and will, come from almost any direction. I noticed that she will alert me to birds when she sees them. My alert is is that she stops panting. When I hear that, I simply glance to see where she’s looking and there will almost always be a bird there. Well, almost always. She has a tendency to alert to dragon flies and any type of bird in general but that’s OK, better safe than sorry I think. Hunting with a good dog has definitely changed my perspective on Texas dove hunting.
If you’re going to hunt a water hole – a classic method of Texas dove hunting – then you have to be prepared to drop some birds in the water. Don’t leave them there! Either peel your britches, bring some waders or get a good dog.
Dry Water Holes
This was a new one for me this year. We we Texas dove hunting on a dry water hole between town and an irrigated cotton field. The morning hunt had the birds coming from town and stopping at the DRY water hole before continuing on to the cotton field. The evening hunt had many of the birds stopping at the dry water hole when traveling from the cotton fields back into town. It was DRY! I can only guess that habit may be a very strong motivator in doves.
My dog and I were very excited about this year’s Texas dove hunting. I hunted my dog 8 hunts over 5 days on opening weekend and then four hunts over 3 days the next weekend. On average, she pulled 30+ retrieves per hunt with some as high as 50. No, those weren’t all my birds! By the end of the second weekend, this dog was pooped! That said, she never failed to answer the call to load in the truck or fetch a retrieve. I tried something new this year from Elements Nutrition and I highly recommend it. You can’t order it online. You have to talk to Todd to understand how to use it and how to adapt your feeding procedures to get the most out of it. If he doesn’t think you’ll use it right, he won’t sell it to you. I highly recommend it!
Dove Hunting Limits
I want to say something about limits and how we measure the enjoyment of our hunts. The daily limit for Texas dove hunting is 15 birds. I’m always amazed when people report “how their hunt went” by the count of birds in their bag. Sure, it’s nice to limit. But a limit is also disappointing – to me anyway. It means the hunt is over for the day. I’ve come to understand that the true value of the hunt is the time I spend with friends, the great shots I made, the lessons I learned and the way my dog training pays off by her performance. I’ve learned to respond to “how was your hunt?” by saying “plenty of birds and plenty of shots.”
The True Value of a Texas Dove Hunt
How many times do we neglect to take the time to watch a sunrise or sunset? How often to we spend time with friends and neglect to ask the really interesting questions? How often to we train our dogs but fail to revel in her performance in the field? Too often I think.
Texas Dove Hunting Summary
Texas Dove Hunting is amazing – definitely worth waiting for. The time spent with friends, the anticipation of birds and bag limits, the tricky shots that you do (or don’t) make, the performance of a well trained dog, the laughter and wonder of kids on their first hunt – all make it worth waiting for. Texas dove hunting is not to be missed.