After months of anticipation — and with another good fall flight making its way down the Central Flyway this fall — this weekend marks the start of the 2017-18 Texas North Zone duck hunting season in the Red River Valley.
With a first split running from Nov. 11 through Nov. 26 and with a Dec. 2 to Jan. 28 second split waiting in the wings, North Texas hunters and their Labrador retrievers are ready to hit the local marshes, toss out the decoy spread and begin knocking down limits of ducks.
But opening day limits are never a sure thing, even with a good fall flight of ducks anticipated again this season.
What can local duck hunters do to increase their odds for opening weekend success? Here are three tips designed to answer that question:
1. Scout Today If At All Possible — My late waterfowl guiding friend J.J. Kent was often hard to get in touch with as the start of duck season approached.
Why? Because he practiced what he preached, that duck hunting success is often nothing more than a by-product of the gallons of gasoline burned while driving a truck around and scouting for huntable concentrations of ducks.
“Scout, scout and scout some more,” Kent used to tell me in the past when I inquired about his secret to duck hunting success.
That’s particularly true when mild weather works to scatter duck numbers around the Red River Valley, a frequent occurrence so far this fall. And such warm weather works to make scouting an even bigger key to a good opening weekend duck shoot.
2. Be Early Tomorrow — With mild weather the next couple of days, a lot of this weekend’s opening day movement will be local ducks taking to the skies at first light. To take advantage of that, be sure to set the alarm clock extra early for Saturday morning and don’t hit the snooze button.
Instead, get to your hunting spot early, get the decoy spread set out in plenty of time and then sit back and relax as you drink a cup of steaming coffee and wait on the season’s opening bell to sound.
3. Mix It Up With Decoys and Calling — Since there are going to be plenty of gadwalls, wigeon, pintails and teal around, don’t go overboard with the mallard decoys or calling.
Instead, make sure that your decoy spread has plenty of drab hens (most ducks aren’t anywhere near the full breeding plumage that hunters will see later on in December and January) and that there are a variety of early migrating species like those mentioned above.
In similar fashion, use whistle style calls that imitate the peeps and whistles of wigeon, pintail and teal and keep the highball mallard quacks to a minimum as passing flocks of ducks work overhead.
“I’m not much on highballing at early season ducks,” said Dakota Stowers, head man of North Texas Outfitters (www.northtexasoutfitters.com; 903-815-9842).
“I’ll throw some feed chuckles and hen quacks out of our Zink calls, and some teal and pintail whistles too, but being in the right spot beats the best duck calling on most days, especially in the early season.”
Give these three tips a try and you might be surprised at the opening weekend results.
Maybe even with a limit of early season ducks.