Full moon has hindered duck movement
Rest Texas coastal ponds, prairies and marshes for 14 days, throw in an Arctic cold front and watch the ducks appear. Open the second split of duck season on a full moon and watch ducks sit for most of the morning.
That was the consensus from seasoned hunters and outfitters when duck season reopened Dec. 14.
"We were sitting on 5,000-6,000 ducks on one of our ponds, and the birds never moved," said DU volunteer Ross Russell, of El Campo. "Goes to show just how wild these birds are."
The bright, fireball of a moon fell on the horizon an hour before legal shooting time over the weekend, resulting in a fast flight before dawn and not much movement past sunrise.
"You had to be wired and aggressive for fast shooting at first light," said guide Matt Sbrusch of Bill Sherrill Waterfowl in Wharton. "If you didn't get them (ducks) early, you didn't get them."
Despite the unfavorable lunar phase, duck numbers on the coast continue to be steady. Marsh hunters near Anahuac, High Island and Sabine Pass saw good numbers of green-winged teal, gadwalls and pintails over the weekend.
"There were a lot of teal," said guide Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters. "Most of our hunters took limits of teal, pintails and gadwalls. The hard north wind allowed us to shoot geese, and more snow geese are building in the marsh."
Bay hunters from Matagorda to Rockport to the Laguna Madre took it on the chin during the first split; however, record low, late fall temperatures pushed fresh ducks like pintails, redheads, scaup and gadwalls to the coastal flats during the split. Nevertheless, stiff northwest winds drained tides, sending birds from the back lakes to the bay front, allowing more opportunity for hunters.
Goose hunters have been scratching their heads, trying to find a pattern to work concentrations of snow geese. Snows and specks became snobbish after a solid November of consistent decoying action. This was no surprise to seasoned goose hunters - geese flip a switch, so to speak, every December. It is often during a transition from carbohydrate-rich rice and corn to green fields of wheat, rye grass and winter clover.
"Man, they stuck it to us for about 10 days," Sbrusch said. "The days you thought were going to be good were slow, and the days when the odds were really stacked against you, the geese performed better. We didn't know what was going on."
Frigid weather and freezing ponds to the north sent a noticeable influx of Canada geese to the prairies over the weekend. Most of the Canucks are the smaller variety and have livened up spreads of white with their gullible attitude.
"With the Canadas showing in force, it has given us another option when the light geese don't want to work," Sbrusch said.
Goose hunters have had to endure the temptation and shrill of thousands of decoying sandhill cranes for close to two months, but the big gray birds became fair game Dec. 21, and the date couldn't arrive too soon for the small fraternity of Texas crane hunters.
Known for its excellent tablefare, many outfitters and landowners agree there seems to be more sandhills than ever.
Hopefully, a little wind and weather will thwart their keen wariness.
Duck, goose and crane season runs through Jan. 26.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain (firstname.lastname@example.org).