Chuck Uzzle
For The Record

Saturday morning will officially usher in the 2016-2017 waterfowl season for all our local hunters and expectations run the gamut from cautiously optimistic to gung ho. Texas duck and goose hunters cranked up last weekend and the initial reports were mixed at best. Many local marshes that are historically proven early season producers had half limits on average which is a far cry from the norm. High water during the late summer stunted vegetation growth in many areas so the food sources have somewhat changed and the birds have obviously followed. Before you get the wrong idea about the prospects for the season, it was not all bad, there were some good hunts reported. Several great reports came from public lands where gadwall, pintails, and plenty of teal made up the majority of the straps. A decent amount of widgeon were also taken by several hunters I spoke with as well.
Local hunters who cross the Sabine River and chase ducks and geese in Louisiana will get their first opportunity as the season opens in the Coastal Zone on Saturday morning. Many hunters running the marshes reported a decent influx of birds last weekend during the Youth Only hunts. Saturday’s youth results were much slower compared to Sunday’saccording to the reports I received as it seemed overnight the numbers of birds in area took a big jump. These small fronts we have been getting are certainly helping bolster the number of ducks that are already here. Everything right now points to a huge population of birds still hanging out around the Dakota’s and they are in no big hurry to move due to the unseasonably warm weather farther south in the flyway. The current forecast doesn’t look to be bringing any helpful cold weather anytime soon so local hunters will have to rely on the full moon coming up to help spur a little migration movement in order to improve the local numbers of ducks.
Farther down the Texas coast the opening weekend brought better reports overall as quick limits were the norm in areas around Matagorda, El Campo, and Garwood. Solid populations of speckled bellied geese were bonus birds for duck hunters fortunate enough to have combo shoots near agricultural fields. The concentrations of birds were a bit more predictable down there for those who had plenty of water. Pumping water onto prime locations is big business and in years past the opportunity to have “duck water” was at a premium. This year the higher than normal summer rainfall helped out the farmers and hunters alike when it came time to pump and many outfitters reaped huge benefits. Some of the prime areas in that part of the state have not looked this good at this time of the year in quite some time. The opening weekend was basically just an extension of the great teal season for hunters in that part of the state. In fact the blue wings and green wings made up a good bit of the numbers of ducks taken for many hunters. Perhaps the biggest bonus during the opener was the amount of pintails that have already shown up. Several hunters reported taking their pintails early and then getting the opportunity to just watch a few flocks work their decoys.
Going forward for waterfowlers the biggest concern will be weather and that always seems to be the case. It’s been a tough stretch for the last several seasons and that trend appears to be continuing, in fact the Farmer’s Almanac is actually calling for a dry warm winter and that’s exactly what we don’t want. Regardless of the forecast most waterfowlers will continue to battle through the conditions in one way or another. Many hunters will go as hard as they can locally and then get on the road if necessary to seek out other opportunities. Hopefully we can get some cooperation from both the weather and the birds because local hunters are certainly due for a break.