When cooler temperatures begin to give us some relief from the grueling heat things start to happen in the wilds of Texas.
Whether on the water or in the woods, wildlife begins to move and in the case of hunting seasons begin to open. The following information will help you be able to enjoy both hunting and fishing this fall and perhaps be more successful in the field.
We like to call it “cast and blast” because in a state with as many outdoors opportunities as we have it is possible to shoot a big buck in the morning and thing hook into an equally impressive bass or speckled trout in the afternoon.
Here we go…
Go “green” for early whitetails
If you want to be successful hunting whitetails on a consistent basis, gaining a broad knowledge of their natural food habitats is important and the time to start thinking about it is now.
It is easy to rely solely on corn feeders to lure them in but the fact is when natural foods are abundant deer prefer them over corn and few big bucks frequent feeders during legal shooting hours.
And there is another reason for this story.
With today’s financial woes, many hunters are having to hunt national forest land, draw for hunts on public land or simply forego using feeders. We thought it was important to give some space to the importance of natural foods.
The food sources deer will eat are growing right now and the earlier you get the jump on their location, the better especially if you are hunting public land.
The Texas Agricultural Extension Service based out of Texas A&M University said it’s important for hunters to know that white-tailed deer are ruminants like cows, but their diet selection is radically different.
“Cattle are grass-roughage eaters, have a relatively large rumen relative to body size, and depend heavily on grasses for their diet. Grasses are relatively low in crude protein and digestibility when compared with legumes or forbs (broadleaf weeds).”
“Because of these nutritive parameters, grasses have a longer residence time in the cow rumen. Longer residence time increases rumen microflora (bacteria and protozoa) degradation of the forage. Thus for grass-roughage eaters like cattle and sheep, residence time is relatively long and rate of passage slow,” they said.
White-tailed deer are concentrate selectors, which means their diet must be higher in nutritive value and more rapidly degraded in the rumen.
“Therefore, white-tailed deer rely primarily on forbs and browse (leaves and twigs of woody plants), which are usually higher in crude protein and digestibility than grasses. Grasses comprise only a very small part of the overall diet of the white-tailed deer. Only grasses that are rapidly degraded in the rumen, such as the small grains and ryegrass, are used to any extent by deer.”
“Other useful introduced forages include both warm- and cool-season legumes. Native plants used by white-tailed deer include browse, forbs, soft and hard mast (fruits, acorns), and mushrooms. Forbs and mast, while providing good nutrition, may not be available each year or at all times of the year. Browse is usually the most important source of deer nutrition because of year-round availability.”
Another excellent source for deer is black gum, which Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials rank as “excellent” for deer and other game.
Coralberry or “buck brush” is a great source of food, especially in the eatern third of the state.
The name should give it away but the thicket it creates along with the nutrition it provides makes it a favorite among deer hunters in the region. Looking at the Pineywoods as a whole, TPWD officials note that in most areas, the virgin forest has been harvested several times over the last century.
For those hunting on national forest or large public hunting lands in the eastern third of the state it is important to examine how the land is divided.
A TPWD survey indicated that 22 percent of all timberland was classified as pine plantation. Most (72 percent) plantation establishment was on forest industry lands. The 1992 survey indicated that approximately 71 percent of the plantations were less than 20 years old.
That is worth explaining because some of the very best areas in the state are around fresh clear cuts (and up to a few years old) that are used to make way for these pine plantations.
The fall flounder run is set to kick into high gear in the latter part of October.
Flounder are already starting to trickle from the marsh down into the channel and out toward the Gulf of Mexico. There has not been any big movements but migrations always start slowly. We need a “blue norther” to blow through and kick it into high gear.
I have uncovered some tips for catching really big flounder that has paid off well and this week I would like to share them with you.
Think Small: Big flounder can eat bigger fish than smaller ones but they often do not. Unlike speckled trout, which start seeking out bigger baitfish than their smaller counterparts do, flounder are opportunists that eat what is
presented them and typically just keeping eating more of the same size
Go Deep: The biggest flounder tend to hang out in close proximity to deep water. Target a large percentage of efforts toward deep-water access points in ship channels and in areas where passes and channels intersect with bays. This is true year-round.
Territory: Tagging studies have shown flounder are at least semi territorial and this author believes they stay in a small area throughout
their tenure in the bays. Before that big norther hit keep this in mind. If you have lost a big flounder in a certain spot keeping going back there. Chances are the fish is still close by.
When the run begins this changes but keep this in mind.. If you miss a flounder at the boat throw right back to where you last saw it. That fish has probably not moved very far. I have done this on numerous occasions.
Line Shy: All flounder are line shy when the water is clear but big flounder are super line shy. Always use fluorocarbon leaders or pure
fluorocarbon line is you can see more than about 18 inches in the water when in pursuit of monster flatfish.
Chumming: If you are fishing deep water where you have shallow flowing to deep or into a tidal marsh pool you cannot reach consider
chumming. It is possible to bring flounder to you and in areas where their numbers are not necessarily high this can be an advantage. Flounder have large olfactory glands that allow them to smell so give chumming a try and see if you can bring in the big ones.
Trout and Reds Under the Birds
As soon as the big cold fronts start blowing through the Gulf Coast trout and redfish start biting under schools of gulls feeding on the shrimp they push up to the surface.
The only technical part to fall fishing under the birds is to not run up on the birds (or the fish beneath them) with the big motor. Stop at least 50 yards away and use a trolling motor or the wind to move in close. Also, respect other anglers fishing the schools. It is highly disrespectful to fish right next to them. Fishing the same school is fine, but getting close enough to shake hands is rude and may earn you a good look at a middle finger–or maybe the whole fist.
These schooling trout will hit just about anything, including spoon, soft plastics, topwaters, and lipless crankbaits. Reds will too but if you’re specifically targeting reds use a gold spoon. It’s hard to beat.
Sometimes trout in the fall want a fast retrieve. And I do mean fast. Most anglers fishing soft plastics hop the bait up and down, but during the fall, sometimes the trout will hit only if you throw it out and reel it in as fast as possible. If you find a flock of birds obviously feeding on trout and cannot get the fish to hit, try this method. It usually works when nothing else does.
By nature, the biggest specimens of speckled trout are lazy. They are old, fat, and seem to have lost their vigor for fighting the young ones for shrimp and menhaden. That means when you run into a school of specks feeding in the fall, the biggest specks will be belly-to-the-bottom. Instead of fishing a soft plastic lure on a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce jighead, simply upgrade the head 1/2-ounce so it sinks to the bottom quickly.
Another way to get bigger trout as well as reds is to fish on the outside of the feeding frenzy. If I have had my fill of smallish trout or are simply hungry for some tasty redfish fillets, I pull up about 20 yards farther out than you would while trout fishing under the birds, and then make pattern casts around the school with a Rat-L-Trap or a 1/2-ounce silver spoons.
Bass in the Grass
Right now many Texas lakes are full and the ones in East Texas in particular are full of grass.
It is all about available cover.
Large Texas reservoirs have many coves, fingers and shorelines and in any given area the best cover will be the area that draws in the bass, particular during the summer and early fall period according to Texas bass pro Russell Cecil.
Besides being a touring FLW pro, Cecil and his partner Todd Castledine are the current Anglers of the Year in the Texas Team Trail and Bass-N-Bucks Anglers of the Year for both the Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Summer Series events. In other words, Cecil knows a thing or two about Texas bass fishing.
“I love punching the ‘hay’ or the thick grass that will grow up in mats sometimes in the middle of the lake on little islands or humps and on shorelines,” Cecil said.“When that kind of cover is prevalent in an area you can bet there will be bass there. One of the keys is to have a good pair of polarized shades with superior lenses like the new Sunrise from Costa to look down in the pockets for fish and movement.”
Then it’s time to “punch”.
That means rigging up a soft plastic, usually some sort of creature bait, on a heavy weight.
Cecil’s favorite rig utilizes a snell knot with an Owner Jungle Flipping Hook rigged on 80-pound Ande braid.
This rig is flipped into pockets in the grass or any area that is penetrable. Most bites are a few seconds after the rig has hit the bottom showing the fish are hearing or feeling the lure and then responding.
“You want to pay attention to anything that feels different whether it is a pulling sensation or any type of sudden stop,” Cecil said.
A hard hookset and is required to penetrate through the “hay” and quite often the rewards are bigger than average bass. These fish are typically not as targeted as those on the edge of the grass, in the hydrilla or even in buckbrush.
This fall if you want big bass, consider punching the “hay”.
Big bass are there for the taking.
Where water meets steel (shot)
I will never forget hearing the familiar sound of whistling wings overhead in the predawn darkness of the deep bottomlands of Newton County.
Followed by a series of “splooshes”, they hinted at the soul-stirring action to come as a swollen, orange sun peaked over the horizon.
A million thoughts raced through my head as I wondered exactly what ducks were lighting in the decoys. Were they the fast-flying green-winged teal I had seen while scouting the area the day before? Maybe they were widgeons, ringnecks, or pintail!
Intrigue hung thick in the air.
As the sun’s brilliance steadily vanquished the darkness, my father and I could make out a few greenwings on the outer edge of the decoys, teasing me as shooting time was still a full five minutes away.
I figured they would leave before we could legally click off our safety and be on our way to some prime gumbo ingredients, but I really did not care. Just being in their presence was enough for me.
Even in dim light, their beauty was radiant.
Almost as if they had read my mind, the cluster of teal rose off the water a minute before they would have met a barrage steel shot, but I knew there would be more action to come. I could feel it.
As the clock struck 6:53, I blew on my call and we readied our guns as the game was officially on. High in the sky I spotted four gadwall, giving the spread a look-over.
As I let out a couple of quacks, the quartet dove came from the heavens in a nosedive straight toward the decoys. I clicked my safety into the shoot position as my heart pounded in anticipation.
The ducks continued their descent and a few yards before slamming headfirst into the water, they put on their breaks, turned into a landing position with wings cupped and legs out and Dad and I emptied our cartridges.
All four of the ducks fell and we were off to an absolutely perfect morning of hunting and it created a memory that would last a lifetime.
Then we planned our fishing trip for flounder in Sabine Lake where they just happened to be biting with great fervor.
That’s what a “cast and blast” is all about.
—story by AUTHOR