Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Fish & Game

Why You Should Be Waterfowl Hunting This Season

For Texans looking to get into hunting, duck hunting provides a unique opportunity for excitement, camaraderie and wonderful table fare. Unlike many forms of hunting, you don’t have to worry about scent control or a strict “no talking” policy. Instead, your energy is invested in maintaining your camouflage, concealing your position and remaining motionless when ducks rush overhead in ever-tightening circles, wings whistling, as they scrutinize their landing zone for threats. Threats like you. 

For camouflage, you may choose to paint your cheeks, nose and forehead like a commando or hide behind a camo face mask, with only your eyes moving as you track the flight of your approaching target. If you can master your nerves and be disciplined in your stillness, you’ll have more success, more fun and more ducks on the strap.

Conversations while duck hunting are free-flowing since we are as social as the quarry we chase. In the duck blind, new hunters receive advice, tips and tricks while poised on the edge of their seat, waiting for the most experienced hunter in the group to command “Bust ’em!” There are plenty of shoulder claps and elbow nudges to acknowledge each other’s successes, misses and other excuses to celebrate the experience together. It is that communal aspect of duck hunting that sets it apart as a unique and rewarding pursuit.

Another reward involves soaking up the aesthetics of the experience. Silhouetted birds rocketing in at first light against a tumultuous sky or birds held motionless in the hand of the hunter give us opportunity to enjoy these incredible animals up close. The iridescence of their feathers, intricacy of their patterns and differences in their beaks and webbed feet all tell their story of who they are, where they come from and how they thrive.

Undoubtedly the greatest reward is a well-shot, well-preserved and well-prepared duck breast (or two, preferably on a bed of steaming dirty rice). “Well-shot” comes from the right gauge, correct pellet size and appropriate shot distance to yield the greatest amount and quality of meat. “Well-preserved” involves careful handling of your harvest in the field and during transportation. “Well-prepared” is where home chefs can shine. Some trim away all fat; others argue for a whole bird, skin on, meticulously plucked. Most advocate for a brine, and many are ardent quick-sear specialists.

Education and access are always at a premium when learning a pursuit, and new duck hunters will be well-served by contracting with a guide or outfitter who is focused on their success. Quality guides will supply the knowledge, equipment and access critical to up-and-coming waterfowlers. Vet your guide by checking reviews, asking for recommendations and clearly identifying expectations and realities prior to booking your hunt.

Becoming a successful duck hunter requires both art and science. It is a hobby that one can enjoy a lifetime mastering. While a trip or two with a guide can teach you the basics to get started, finding experienced hunting companions who are willing to share their knowledge will not only make your time afield more enjoyable but also enhance your learning of decoy placement, calling and dog handling.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers a variety of resources, including Hunting 101 courses and mentored hunting workshops that provide education and access for waterfowl hunts.

Another great option is to contact species-focused conservation organizations. Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited offer programs and instruction for new hunters.

Respectfully requesting hunting permission from landowners is a great way to gain access and build relationships worth fostering. Alternatively, you can take advantage of public hunting access provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and TPWD’s Public Hunting Program.

Chasing ducks will provide you with the thrill of the hunt, the bonds of friendship and good food for the table. If you are an experienced waterfowler, consider inviting someone new into the duck blind this season or volunteering with a conservation organization to ensure the duck hunting tradition continues. 

 Jason Mercer;  Jason Mercer | TPWD

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