October 29, 2018 | Waterfowl Hunting
Texas Waterfowl Hunting: 6 Unique Experiences Across the Lone Star State
Are you looking for a place to hunt ducks and geese? If so, Texas is the place to be. The many different geographic and eco-regions of Texas offer waterfowl hunters a plethora of diverse options for pursuing a variety of migrating waterfowl.
No matter what species you’re after or your preferred method of hunting them, there’s a good chance that particular locales within our great state have just what you’re looking for. After considering certain deciding variables, you can choose to focus your waterfowling efforts in specific areas. An even better idea would be to spend some time broadening your hunting experiences by chasing beautiful feathers and cupped wings on multiple hunts in a few regions.
Below you will find everything you need to know about pursuing waterfowl in a variety of areas that boast diverse concentrations of birds. We’ll tell you where to go, what to expect, and why you should continue to return. Bust some feathers, make countless memories, and enjoy!
1. Rice Prairies
Rice prairies have historically been a key winter habitat feature for both ducks and geese in Texas, and they still are today. From ponds and flooded rice fields, to cut rice crops and plowed ground, all of these different terrains found within our prairies can produce phenomenal results.
Snows and specklebelly geese satisfy goose hunters along rice prairies, while duck hunters are kept busy with pintail, teal, gadwall, shovelers, mottled ducks, and widgeon.
Some of the best rice prairies to find consistent action are located west of Houston around El Campo, Garwood, Wharton, and Eagle Lake. East of Houston, fields near Winnie and the surrounding areas can also be productive.
2. Cattle Tanks & Stock Ponds of Interior Texas
The stock ponds and cattle tanks within interior portions of the Lone Star State are rapidly becoming the largest freshwater feature in Texas, and the largest waterfowl refuge in North America.
Each year, more and more ducks are choosing to winter on these small bodies of water scattered across the inland regions of the state. They can escape hunting pressure on these ponds, while finding plenty food and habitat to send them back to their breeding grounds extremely healthy.
None of these bodies of water concentrate significant amounts of waterfowl on their own when compared with the overall population. The key here is that there are hundreds of them across the landscape. Collectively they compose vast amounts of habitat and offer waterfowl large acreages void of human activity.
That’s why if you can gain access to one of these ponds, a stellar shoot can be experienced fairly easily. There’s no need for piles of decoys when hunting a small body of water. Half a dozen to a dozen is all that’s necessary. Set up with the wind at your back and get ready for some in-your-face shots.
Some of the best stock ponds and cattle tanks for ducks lie within the triangle between College Station, Paris, and Breckenridge. Gaining access to hunt these holes can be as simple as talking to a landowner and asking permission, or booking your waterfowl hunt with an outfitter who has already acquired the necessary permission.
Gadwall, pintail, teal, widgeon, redheads, mottled ducks, and mallards can all be found wintering along small ponds and tanks throughout interior portions of the state.
3. East Texas Bottomlands
East Texas has always had a long standing tradition of waterfowl hunting. Some of the best hot spots lie along sloughs and oxbows off of creaks and rivers that feed into the area’s lakes.
Scouting can play a major roll in success when hunting these off-the-grid locations. Shallow running duck boats give hunters the best access to these honey holes, and finding them doesn’t come without plenty of effort. Studying satellite images on Google Earth is a good way to find new territories that might attract hoards of ducks.
When it all comes together and hunters find their own stretch of flooded timber or a hidden pond off the beaten path, they can plan to encounter wood ducks, gadwall, mallards, and widgeon. In most cases, two dozen or less floater duck decoys is all that’s needed to get the job done.
4. Coastal Bays & Marshes
Coastal Bays and Marshes provide some of the largest stretches of public hunting opportunities for waterfowl in the entire state. Some of the best areas lie within Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) or a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which means you have to possess an annual public hunting permit in order to gain access. The permit costs $48 and gives you access to nearly one million acres of public land. It’s money well spent.
Divers like redheads and bluebills can be found in large swarms over open bay waters, while pintail, teal, gadwall, and shovelers will frequent marshes and back lakes more often. Other ducks that can be found in these areas include mottled ducks, buffleheads, canvasbacks, and more.
When hunting open bay waters, large decoy spreads of 10 -12 dozen or more are necessary to get the attention of ducks flying in the distance. Back lakes and marshes only require about half as many at the most, depending on its size.
5. High & Rolling Plains
Intense agriculture makes areas of the high and rolling plains some of the best goose hunting grounds in the entire state. In recent years it seems the large agricultural fields within these regions have become the stopping grounds for huge portions of the populations of geese that migrate to our state each winter.
In the high plains, agricultural production revolves mostly around corn. Milo and winter wheat are also predominant crops. Specklebelly geese and Canada geese flock to the high plains each winter, but the region is mostly known for its immense and steady wintering population of snow geese.
The peanut industry drives the agricultural production within the rolling plains. Acres of vast peanut fields provide food and a source of energy for large numbers of specklebelly geese, along with Canada geese.
Specklebelly geese make up the majority of the total population of geese in the rolling plains. They account for about 75 percent of the population in the area. Lesser Canada geese make up the remaining 25 percent.
The best thing about hunting geese in the high and rolling plains is that most of the time the fields you are hunting in are bone dry. Waders are not necessary, and you can even hunt in tennis shoes if your heart so desires.
Lay out blinds hidden amongst large spreads of both full bodies and Sillo Socks can provide large groups a hunters with some unbelievable decoying action. It’s nothing for parties of 10 or more shotgunners to bag their limits within the first hour of a hunt.
6. Playa Lakes
Playa lakes are a natural chain of wetlands that rely on rainfall to maintain levels of water large enough to provide substantial roost habitat for waterfowl. Many average a little over 15 acres in size, although some can be larger.
Playa Lakes are a significant waterfowl habitat feature within the High and Rolling Plains regions. Hunts along these bodies of water typically produce success when they are conducted later in the morning. This is because the birds will return to Playa lakes after they have spent the early morning hours feeding in vast agricultural crop fields.
Hunts along playas typically take place out of pit blinds or lay out blinds situated on the bank. These adventures usually result in straps of Canada geese, as well as specklebelly geese and snow geese. Mallards, pintails, widgeon, and gadwalls can also found working into the mix.
Full sized, floater goose decoys, along with full bodies make up a productive spread when hunting a playa lake. This type of hunt can sometimes be hit or miss, but when you’re on the “X,” be prepared to sling some steel, and a lot of it!