Ready for the second split of teal season? From the looks of things, that just may be the case when Texas hunters opened regular duck season Saturday.
Of course, real waterfowlers won’t complain if blue-winged teal steal the show come opening day. Nevertheless, plenty of pintails, gadwalls and shovelers have arrived as of late, and expect another influx with a welcomed cold front slated to hit the coast on Duck Eve.
“There are not as many big ducks,” said Mike Lanier of Red Bluff Prairie Hunting Club in Garwood. “There are bluewings, but in big concentrated groups. The numbers are far from what we are accustomed to seeing for the opener.”
That could have something to do with the short-sleeved weather Texas has endured for most of October. Highs in the 80s have been the norm. Not the best recipe for prompting waterfowl to migrate.
“We have a pile of teal right now,” said guide Bill Sherrill of Wharton. “Our ponds look good for fast shoots.”
Sherrill said he has been battling the sunshine, warm temperatures and the evaporation that ensues on prairie ponds this time of year. The coast has not seen significant rainfall in about six weeks.
“I am re-pumping water right now,” said Sherrill. “Those ponds that were wet during teal season are probably dry if you haven’t pumped water again. We need a rain bad.”
Bay estuaries and marshes from Matagorda to Rockport are waiting for ducks to arrive. Reports along the salt indicate few birds.
“Ducks are slim right now,” said guide Harold Dworaczyk of Bay Flats Lodge in Seadrift. “But the pending front should do the trick in the marsh.”
This week it was obvious some birds were on the move ahead of the front. What had been shallow bay flats devoid of wings, quietly came to life with divers like redheads and scaup beginning to trickle to shoalgrass shorelines.
“We probably would have had a good shoot on the south shoreline of West Matagorda Bay today,” said guide Ray Sexton Thursday afternoon after a daylong wadefishing charter. “More pintails showed up and redheads buzzed us early.”
The good news in the marsh is duck food looks plentiful. High tides during teal season coupled with rains sweetened ponds and encouraged aquatics like wigeongrass to grow. Gadwalls, teal and pintails have enjoyed the buffet.
Goose hunters shouldn’t expect too much this seasonwhen the season opens Nov.1. There are isolated pockets of specklebellies on the prairies, but only a handful of snow geese have shown.
“Every year the geese seem to be later and later,” said Sherrill. “When the geese finally get here in huntable numbers we will get serious about it. Until then we will hunt ducks and allow goose numbers to build.”
Reports from the north indicate a decent hatch of young, gullible, gray-feathers snow geese, a barometer of what to expect during the three-month season. Reports from the ground indicate the same for specks.
A strong breeding population of ducks should ensure a healthy migration this fall and winter. The hard part is waiting for those millions of webbed feet to get here.