For the Record

Capt. Chuck Uzzle

 

“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 Louisiana 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 awhile, they would stay until the next wave of birds

came down and 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 and 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 because 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. Now 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 3 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.

It seems more and more often that hunters on our end of the flyway have to make

some sort of move to increase their odds at having a successful hunt. The

weather is obviously the biggest concern and factor that local water fowl

hunters must learn to deal with. The combination of warm or cold winters coupled

with sporadic rainfall to our north turns most hunters into part time fortune

tellers predicting the future. This year we may actually get a break due to the

fact that we finally get a few factors in our favor. The most important is the

lack of standing water farther up the flyway. Areas like the panhandle and

Oklahoma have been dry all year and that spells good things for those of us on

the coast. Without any big concentrations of water to hold birds we should see

more numbers in our neck of the woods without having to travel nearly as far.

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 and that is 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.