Thursday, February 02, 2006

Texas Duck Hunting Report February, 2006

I have just posted the pictures from the 05/06 Waterfowl Season. I have found it beneficial for proprietarty reasons to post the pictures en mass at the end of the season rather than periodically throughout the season. That’s a great plan until you lose your camera. Regardless, I’m now running a 7.2 Mega Pixel Sony that is awesome. So, I captured many of the moments during the last three weeks or so. If you don’t see your photo, it's in the swamp.

If you made it in this year, you know we fought low water/no water conditions in the Bays all Winter. Call it El Nino, La Nina, Equinox, inland drought, freak deal or whatever, but this threw us for a loop like we’ve never seen. If you didn’t make it down this season, you missed a good one, but one that was extremely difficult on man, machine, and dog. With prime major habitat devastated and in many cases dry and void of the essential bottom grasses the birds piled into a swamp that hadn’t seen a duck in 10 years and we went with them. With no infrastructure, we had to put it in place in order to hunt. The swamp is a bottomless quagmire of big Gators, snags, logs, and lillypads and it’s “drop-off” only in this country. Both the guide and clients had to be dropped off as there was no walking or stepping out of the blinds to make adjustments or go get the boat.

With us behind the curve catching up with this “in migration” of birds to an area virtually un-hunted in years, we found ourselves moving in pallets, palm fronds, putting in blinds in the dark and so on. Hard pressed to get two high quality blinds installed “late season”, Capt. James Cunningham, helper Chris Cady, and myself left Seadrift one afternoon in fog at 3:00pm and had two blinds built by 6:00pm. We cut cane with a chain saw in the dark and had them brushed up by 8:15pm. Upon returning to Seadrift we again ran into fog. Both blinds were shot the next morning with full limits from each and both repeatedly produced throughout January. It was the constant addition to infrastructure, air boat mobility, and dedication on the part of everyone that made results like this common, day in and day out. We maintained a 5.63 bird per man average and that's just plain hard work on a year like this. One thing I've learned over the years is that we can adapt to just about anything. If there are birds to kill or fish to catch, we're going to find a way to get it done.
You can bet it pays to have friends in low places in a year like this. Drawing from a network of guides and associated guide services is a big plus when the chips are down. We've bailed out other guide buddies and shuttled customers for others as needed, this time it was us in the hot seat. Mid season, I tore the belt on my reduction unit on the airboat. This is about the equivalent of dropping a transmission "mid race". This time, we needed some help and got it in spades. I've got to give a big thanks to Capt. Marvin Strakos, Marty Strakos, Brian Caldwell, and Freddy Horbath. This crew with MS Guide Service in Port O'Connor shuttled us in to the hot spots a couple of days keeping our clients well cared for and on the birds. We went down on a Friday with the belt reduction unit and were back up and running on Monday despite everything going wrong that could go wrong with the change out. This was followed by a plague of starter problems that finally lined out the last week of the season after a half dozen new units, some of which were changed in the field. That is pushing the envelope for sure. I've also got to thank Capt. Dwayne Lowery of Lowery's Guide Service. D-Wayne came through for us early and we returned the favor late. I'd also like to thank all of our clients and friends that made this an unforgettable season.

While getting the infrastructure built was demanding, hunting the swamp was rewarding. We limited most every shoot while hunting and rotating the same blinds day after day. With the birds so congregated due to the devastated habitat, it made for memorable outings day in and day out. Of note, we killed 8 Cinnamon Teal during the season and 1 Cinnamon/Blue Wing crossbreed pictured in the photo gallery. These were the first Cinnamon Teal we have ever killed.

Thanks to Paul Steinhauer from New Jersey , we made an adjustment this year from milk crates on ambush hunts to buckets with padded seats. What a leap in comfort and utility, this was a big hit with everyone.


James and I are leaving for Mex on February 7 th to check out an operation in Chihuahua, Mexico. The management is more proactive than I’m used to in Mexico and I think these guys are doing a hell of a job in the agricultural valley nestled in the mountains about 2.5 hours from Chihuahua . If the lodge and operation meets my expectations, we are going to be accompanying clients in February/March of 2007 after our season ends.

Fishing/Hog Hunting

It looks like things are already moving on the fishing scene in February. Wouldn’t you know that after suffering “low water/no water” conditions all of the Waterfowl Season, it had to flood on us the last two days. When you are used to hunting a specific water level and solidly killing, you notice changes and perhaps slow downs with a fluctuation of an inch or two in water level. We picked up at least 12 inches of water two days before the season ended. Regardless, the birds didn’t let us down, in fact, they were so hung up on the area that they just weren’t going to leave it no matter what the depth pushed to.

What is hard on duck hunters is “heaven” for fishermen. It’s way too early to call this influx of water a “Spring Tide” but is sure is nice to know that there might actually be a Spring Tide. If the water maintains and average “high water” status, I’ll call it a Spring Tide. This is going to make for some serious rod bending fast. I’ll keep you posted as we move through February. We are going to be doing more Popping/Cork Shrimp fishing for Trout this Spring along with some heavy Airboat Redfishing in the back country. If you want to load the freezer, try a Hog/Fish combination trip now through mid-April. Give us a shout.
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