Local duck hunters in both Texas and Louisiana are headed down the home stretch and as of this past week it’s starting to get tougher. Local marshes that were red hot during the first split have become tough places to kill a limit. Many hunters are now traveling much farther to hunt in an effort to find better populations of ducks and geese. The popular theory among many local hunters is that when we started getting rain last week that many agricultural areas flooded or at least began to hold enough water to attract the birds.

The key now seems to be fresh water, if you have an area that is holding fresh water you more than likely have plenty of birds. Hunters who have stayed behind in tidal marshes are watching empty skies and hoping for a big push of new birds from the north. Still others have decided to get on the road and go find the birds. Popular destinations this time of the year include the panhandle and the coast. Goose hunters near places like Lubbock and Amarillo have had a great year so far and it appears that trend will continue.

Duck hunters on the coast near Port O, Rockport, and Corpus have had plenty of the normal ducks like redheads and scaup to go along with bonus populations of puddle ducks like pintails, teal and widgeon. Hunting along the coast is always an enjoyable break from staring at the same old marsh all season. In what has become an annual event I took a group of young hunters down to Matagorda for a few days during the Christmas break from school and it was certainly a good time.

The standard group that’s been going together for several years now consists of Hunter Uzzle, Chance Lemoine, Jonah Lemoine and myself. This year we added 2 more hunters to the mix, Jacob Lemoine and Jack Dallas joined the crew. Home base for the trip was Matagorda Sunrise Lodge (www.matagordasunriselodge.com)  which is owned and operated by Bink Grimes. Bink and I have been hunting and fishing together for years and it’s always nice to spend a little time in the blind with him.

Most of our efforts were concentrated on shooting ducks in West Matagorda bay where the large concentrations redheads tend to gather. During our trip we encountered some seriously low tides in the bay which made finding shoreline cover a difficult task. The three foot low tides forced us into some areas where we normally don’t hunt but that also allowed us to shoot more puddle ducks than we normally do so it all worked out. One of the greatest appealing factors of hunting on the coast is the hard sand bottoms and shallow flats that more closely resemble your kitchen floor than a pond full of marsh mud. The combination of shallow water, hard bottoms, and plenty of ducks make West Bay one of my favorite places to hunt.

On the days when we didn’t hunt the bay we went north to Wharton and made a few hunts where shot snow geese and sandhill cranes. Again the terrain is a big plus as we were able to set up in dry fields and enjoy not getting muddy or wet which is a big difference from chasing those birds in a rice field of salt marsh. During our bets hunt we were treated to an incredible show of geese as they piled into our field at daylight by the thousands.

The sight of all those birds in that early morning light was a treat, especially when they locked up on our decoy spread and dropped in like you can only hope for. A personal highlight for me was a couple of extremely long retrieves by my lab Sally on geese that sailed off several hundred yards outside decoy spread. It’s hard to put it into words how it makes you feel but I can only say I was beyond proud. Despite the weather problems and low water our trip was still a success and very enjoyable. I always look forward to making that run down the coast and the excellent hunting and fishing certainly is a plus.

The final few weeks of the duck and goose season will be frantic as most all of the hunters will try to get in every last hunt they possibly can. Scouting and locating birds will become even more important as most birds will now become even spookier than normal since they have been shot at and seen every just about every trick in the book. Smaller decoy spreads, less calling, and fewer spinning wing decoys will help your odds as the season draws towards a conclusion. All of this and a little help from the weather folks could go a long way towards ending this season on a high note.