Saturday and Sunday is the youth-only hunting weekend for white-tailed deer and ducks in most of the state. That means lots of young hunters will experience the thrill of a deer suddenly materializing in a shooting lane or a flock of teal spotting the decoys and whirling as one unit to pitch in, moving as fast as mourning doves.
This is heady stuff to a youngster who’s never before experienced it. Safety is job one for the adult mentor. It’s your job to keep a close watch on firearms and kids, who can easily get caught up in the moment’s excitement.
Hopefully, the kids have done their homework. For young deer hunters, that means practice with a scope-sighted .22 rimfire until they can get a solid rest, find the target quickly and efficiently through the scope, put the crosshairs on the target and accurately squeeze off the shot.
For youth duck hunters, it means practicing on clay targets until they can confidently concentrate on one target from a flock that’s hopefully floating over the decoys and shoot that one duck.
In many regards, Texas deer hunting is easier than duck hunting. That’s because most deer hunters bait the animals near a hunting blind. A deer hunter usually has several seconds, sometimes minutes, to concentrate on a deer and wait until it provides a broadside, standing shot.
Ducks are less predictable. Some shots are close, others stretch a beginner’s shooting ability. That’s where the adult comes in handy. “Shoot now and take the duck on the left,” or “Don’t shoot. They’re not close enough.”
Kids need to learn the limits of a shotgun and why passing up a marginal shot is good conservation that results in more ducks next year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts record numbers of ducks in the fall migration. The service has been surveying ducks since 1955. There have been some downhill population trends in the past 59 years, but not lately. Three of the past four surveys have set records.
Texas serves as funnel for ducks migrating down the Central Flyway from Canada and the U.S. prairie potholes region. As many as 10 million ducks could come through the state this fall and winter.
There won’t be huge number of ducks in Texas for the youth weekend, but Kevin Kraai, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Waterfowl Program Leader, said there will be enough to make it exciting for those who choose a good hunting spot.
“Youth hunters will likely experience good numbers of teal, wood ducks, pintails and shovelers,” said Kraai. “For this time of the year, it remains very warm in Canada and the Dakotas. “We would like to see their small water bodies freeze up in the next couple of weeks to see a more significant push of birds prior to our traditional opening day.”
That day is coming soon, Nov. 1, in all of Texas except for the High Plains Mallard Management Unit where the season begins Saturday.
The best hunting will occur on managed wetlands where managers have the capability to pump water onto planted crops. October rains were spotty at best. In some areas, however, they caused lake levels to rise and flood native vegetation.
Most Dallas-area lakes did not catch a significant amount of water. A good internet source for public lake water levels is waterdatafortexas.org.
Small ponds or stock tanks in East and West Texas often produce good duck hunting because the ducks are not bothered much by people on the quiet private waters. A lot of ducks winter on West Texas stock tanks. If you’re taking a youth hunter to a West Texas deer lease this weekend, pack a shotgun and other duck hunting gear.
If the birds are present, the youth hunter can hunt ducks in the morning and deer in the afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Saturday and Sunday are youth-only hunting days for white-tailed deer and ducks in most of Texas. Take a kid hunting this weekend. You’ll see the sport anew through youthful eyes.
For deer hunting purposes, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department defines “youth hunter” as being 16 or younger when the hunting license is bought. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the rules for migratory game birds, however. A “youth” duck hunter must be 15 or younger during the weekend hunt.
FRIDAY, OCT. 24: Fourth annual Clinton Colgin Charities Clay Shoot and Party at Elm Fork Shooting Sports and Woodshed Smokehouse. Proceeds benefit Clinton Colgin Scholarship at Texas Tech and the TPWD’s Hunter Safety and Education Programs. Details and registration online at cccharities.com.
SATURDAY, OCT. 25: Quail season begins statewide.
SATURDAY, OCT. 25-SUNDAY, OCT. 26: Youth-only white-tailed deer and turkey season and youth-only duck season in the North and South Duck Zones.
SATURDAY, OCT. 25-SUNDAY, OCT. 26: First split of regular duck season in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit.
SATURDAY, NOV. 1: Firearms season for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey begins. Duck season begins in North and South Zones. Goose season for light geese, Canada geese and white-fronted geese begins in East Zone and West Zone. Sandhill crane season begins in Zone A.
SATURDAY, NOV. 8: Circle Ten Boy Scouts of America Archery Tournament at Texas Archery Academy. Divisions for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Details online at circleten.org.
SATURDAY, NOV. 22: Mule deer season begins in the Texas Panhandle.
FRIDAY, NOV. 28: Mule deer season begins in the Trans-Pecos Region.
SATURDAY, DEC. 6: Pheasant season begins in the Texas Panhandle.