On the eve of tomorrow morning’s 2018 duck season opener in North Texas, if you’re a waterfowler here in the Texomaland area, let me offer you some timely advice.
Dress warmly and don’t punch the alarm clock snooze button.
Because as the Nov. 10-25 first split of the Texas North Zone duck season opens up tomorrow a.m., the coldest low temperature readings since last winter are in the forecast and a Freeze Watch is in place.
Add in another good hatch this spring up in the Duck Factory — and a northerly breeze straight from Canada tomorrow at dawn — and there should be no shortage of great duck shooting action in waterfowl blinds on both sides of the Red River.
In fact, the duck blind action has already been downright sizzling for some Sooner State hunters, including those hunting in southwestern Oklahoma with Dakota Stowers and his various North Texas Outfitters duck guides (www.northtexasoutfitters.com; 903-815-9842).
With more than 125,000 acres of leased hunting ground at their disposal — much of it in southern Oklahoma where the Nov. 3-25 first split is already open in Zone 2 — recent temperature trends and heavy rainfall of late has set the table for a superb start to the season.
“It was a tremendous opening weekend,” said Stowers. “In fact, the last several days have been killer. Our guides have been leading clients to plenty of limits on our Oklahoma properties — I think we’re already over 200 birds for the season and it’s just the first week.”
With the typical early season birds currently moving down the Central Flyway, puddle ducks are making up the bulk of each day’s action in the NTO duck blinds.
“Gadwalls and wigeon have been making up most of our bag limits,” said Stowers on Wednesday. “But we’re also seeing some redheads and teal as well.”
That’s pretty routine in early November as duck hunting campaigns open up here in the Red River Valley. Especially since pintails, redheads, shovelers, green-winged teal, and even a few blue-winged teal stragglers are heading for their wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast.
In short, many of those ducks are coming through Texomaland in early November, no matter what the thermometer readings happen to be.
But if the chilly weather continues to pour into the region as predicted over the next few days, local hunters shouldn’t be too surprised to see a few November mallards adorning their duck straps too.
Why? Because it’s getting cold to our north. In fact, a friend of mine in northeastern Kansas bowhunted white-tailed deer in falling snow yesterday morning. And rumors on Internet weather forums persist of more unseasonable conditions being possible next week here in the southern Great Plains.
If that materializes, such weather could certainly conspire to push a big wave of pre-Thanksgiving week greenheads to the south.
If you’re a local waterfowler hoping to find some early November hunting success, here are several key factors that can help lead to a limit of quackers over the next few days.
First, you’ve got to get out and scout. From my old Denison High School classmate Mike Bardwell to my late friend J.J. Kent and now on to Stowers, all three guides have always insisted that the key to Texomaland duck shooting success is in getting out and searching for huntable numbers of quackers.
“You might as well call me a scout first, a duck hunter second,” I remember Bardwell telling me in the past.
How do you scout for ducks? Simple, get out and go to the spots that are traditionally good for ducks in the region, using your binoculars to look in on the birds from afar. Find where the proverbial “X” is, and then have your decoys bobbing there the next morning as the sun struggles over the horizon.
Next, try and match your decoy spread to the birds that you are likely to encounter in these first few days of the 2018-19 season.
“In the early days of the November split, you’re going to see more pintails, gadwalls, wigeon, and teal than you will mallards,” Stowers has told me in the past. “So the key is to make your decoy spread match the ducks that you can expect to see in the air (early on in the season).”
“Throw a few Avian-X mallard decoys out, but make sure that you’ve got plenty of the other species in your spread too,” Stowers added.
Next, don’t overdo the calling since location will trump a hunter’s ability to belt out a few highball greeting calls right now.
“I’m not much on highballing at early season ducks,” Stowers has noted to me before. “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.”
If the wind is blowing strongly, such November days can be an exception to that rule however. On windy days, use a call that can be heard easily by distant ducks, something like a Rich-N-Tone acrylic original or a Sure-Shot Game Calls Yentzen One2.
The latter call, made by Charlie Holder’s crew down in Groves, Texas, is the modern version of a duck call that Texas waterfowlers have used for years, the Yentzen Classic.
While the Yentzen Classic — invented by the late Jim “Cowboy” Fernandez — is made out of walnut, the One2 is constructed of a space-age polymer. Also featuring a patented screw-lock design, the One2 sports a double-reed system that is all but impossible to stick as hunters make mallard music on a day filled with flights of migrating birds.
Finally, even though it is the early stages of the season here in Texomaland, don’t forget that waterfowl hunting has already been going strong for several weeks further to the north.
Meaning that hunters will want to make sure that their camo matches their surroundings, that exposed hands and faces are covered up with gloves and a face mask, and that the blind blends into the landscape well.
The bottom line is this — put a little time, effort, and thought into your duck hunting activities here in early November. And then cross your fingers and pray to the Lord above that the predicted chilly weather continues.
Because if it does, odds are that you can expect some red-hot duck shooting success, even in the chill of early November.