Migration habits force hunters to adapt
You remember when….?” is a question that I am hearing all too often these days, especially when I am talking to water fowlers. Less than a decade ago our area marshes were a haven for all types of migratory birds, world class wing shooting at its best. The skies were filled with ducks and geese and the local hospitality and great Cajun cuisine made this part of the world a magnet for hunters from all around the globe. Well the food and hospitality are still here; but the birds are noticeably absent. The area from east of Galveston bay all the way over towards Lafayette, La. is just not what it used to be in terms of duck and goose hunting; and that is a scary thought for many hunters.
In years past, it wasn’t uncommon to see the big flights of ducks invade our marshes and settle in for awhil. They would stay until the next wave of birds came down; so the cycle continued much to the delight of area hunters. Duck leases in this part of the country commanded high price tags and usually had long waiting lists. That is not the case anymore. More and more local hunters are giving up on a sport they love in favor of other winter pursuits, the decoys are getting dusty while the rifles, rods, and reels are getting a workout.
Now don’t get me wrong; there are some hunters who refuse to give up the pursuit of waterfowl and are now becoming true blue road warriors; taking off in search of their favorite birds. Many hunters have now decided to take their hunting budget and use it a bit differently by spending money on trips to high profile destinations instead of local leases. If you do the math it makes sense in some ways; you can maximize your opportunities by going to where the birds are instead of waiting for them to come to you. A couple of years ago I guided a gentleman from Georgia who had to be the ultimate road warrior no doubt about it. This hunter took a leave of absence from work and packed his brand new truck full of gear, loaded his dog and left for Canada. Once he reached the far northern end of Canada he began to hunt geese everyday for the next three months until he had worked his way all the way down the Central flyway to Texas! This guy was a real hard core hunter in every sense of the word.
Locally we have several duck hunters who make an annual pilgrimage to the far corners of the state and beyond. Arkansas, the Dakotas, and even Canada are fast becoming regular stops for many local hunters. The allure of hunting in a new area and the potential for world class shooting is well worth whatever the effort for many, especially when things continue to get dismal around home. I’m not saying there aren’t a few folks who are having some excellent hunts this season; but they are few and far between. The public hunts on the refuge are just as good as many leases and that has been marginal at best. The old saying about “here today and gone tomorrow” has never been more true. It seems the birds almost vanish over night and leave hunters scratching there heads, wondering what might have been.
Now don’t get the wrong impression. We still shoot ducks and geese in this area, but it certainly has changed over the past decade or two. The changing face of agriculture and climates has done a number on the once steady migration patterns that were established over time. Hopefully in the future nature will again right itself and bring things back around full circle like it once was. Until then duck and goose hunters will have to either come up with new and innovative ways to get the job done here at home, or head out to other parts of the country to enjoy their sport. One thing is for sure; as long as there are ducks to be hunted, you can bet there will be hunters out there doing everything they can to bag them.