Duck hunting in Texas is a curious thing.
Duck hunting in Texas is a curious thing.
When the season starts in November, duck hunters in North Texas are hunting the southward migration as birds pour down the Central Flyway heading for the Texas Gulf Coast, Mexico, and points south.
By the end of the season in late January, things are often a bit stale as the mallard migration — only a shadow of what it used to be during the peanut farming glory days of Grayson County — begins to taper off.
Is that reason enough to sit out this weekend’s last hurrah for the 2013-14 duck hunting campaign?
Negative ghost rider says Pottsboro waterfowl outfitter J. J. Kent (www.kentoutdoors.com/; 903-271-5524).
Because while the pattern may not be full right now in the skies above North Texas, they aren’t totally empty either.
"What a lot of people forget is that starting sometime in January, the reverse migration will begin in Texas as the birds start filtering back north," said Kent. "Even with cold fronts and winter storms, the birds are beginning to get spring migration and breeding activities on their mind. After all, the migration is as much about the photoperiod as it is the weather."
That reverse migration can see Texoma skies be empty one morning but full the next as a wave of northward migrating pintails, wigeon, teal, gadwalls, and redheads show up overnight.
"Last year during the final two days of the season, we had a major wave of birds that came north from the coast and up into North Texas," said Kent. "We saw a bunch of redheads show up in those final few days."
But that was last year when mild weather ruled the late January day.
This morning as you read this, Old Man Winter is spitting sleet, snow, and freezing rain well to the south of Texomaland. Locally there is no snow or ice expected but temperatures are forecast to bottom out in the teens.
"True but I think we’re starting to see evidence of the birds beginning their northward move," said Kent.
Case in point was the action in front of Kent’s blind yesterday morning.
"We had been pretty slow and stale earlier in the week with just a few gadwalls, mallards, teal and such," he said. "But on Thursday morning, we caught migrant pintails on the move. We had a flock or two bail into the decoys including one of 20 to 25 birds. And they flew in from the south."
With southerly winds and warming weather on Saturday and Sunday before the next arctic blow early next week, Kent expects to see more birds moving north.
"I’ve heard through the grapevine that there is a big wad of green-winged teal staged around Cedar Creek and Richland Chambers to our south," said Kent. a pro-staffer for Mossy Oak. "If they get here before Sunday, the hunting could be a lot of fun."
So how does a last gasp duck hunter hunt the reverse migration this weekend?
"To start with, there are still a decent number of mallards around so it isn’t time to kick them out of your spread," said Kent. "But it is time to start putting more variety into your decoy spread with different species, Personally, I’ll be putting out a spread that consists of mallards, pintails, wigeon and gadwalls."
How many decoys? Kent says that depends on whether he finds frozen water or not.
"If things are frozen on Friday and Saturday morning, I’ll trim down the spread and go with a handful after we have chopped a hole in the ice," he said. "But if the wind stays up and we find open water, I’ll go with two, three, or four dozen decoys."
The guide does say that this weekend isn’t the time to haphazardly toss the blocks onto the water.
"Courtship is beginning so you want to pair up drakes and hens," said Kent. "You want to put your decoys out in little groups — two drakes and a hen here, one hen and a drake there."
What about motion in the spread? Kent says no go on spinning wing decoys — ducks have seen them going for months now — but yes to motion provided by a sporadically splashing Wonderduck or a jerk-string decoy rig.
What about calling? The Zink Calls pro-staffer says that this weekend is the time for less in the way of mallard talk and more in the way of pintail, teal, and wigeon peeps and whistles.
"Be very gentle in your calling and remember that less is more right now," said Kent. "We’re hunting extreme late season birds. So late season that they are starting to move back north.
"This is literally the tail end of the season at the tail end of the flyway, so hunt accordingly. They have literally seen and heard it all by now."
Even so, Kent is expecting good results this weekend as the curtain comes down on the 2013-14 season.
"Things were tough early in the week," he said. "But we had new birds show up from the south on Thursday, so (Friday) should be good.
"Hopefully we’ll continue to get some new birds coming in on the reverse migration and Saturday and Sunday will go out with a bang."