Upper Texas coast offers plenty of public and private waterfowl hunting grounds
With November upon us, it’s time to put out the decoys and enjoy the whistling of wings as cupped feathers cut through the air like a knife.
There are plenty of options on the upper Texas coast for those longing to get in on the wing-shooting action.
The miles of main bay shorelines and coastal marshes provide waterfowl hunters, willing to put in some time and effort, with public land opportunities. Areas around lower west Galveston Bay, Christmas Bay, Freeport and Sargent are known for attracting flocks of redheads, scaup, pintails, buffleheads, gadwalls and teal.
Hunters should do their research before setting up to hunt in an area to make sure they’re not trespassing on private property and there isn’t a permit required to hunt from the particular stretch of coastal terrain they have selected.
Several of the best sites to hunt waterfowl along the upper Texas coast are within Wildlife Management Areas. Some notable Wildlife Management Areas that can produce dynamite shoots are the Justin Hurst and the J.D. Murphree sites.
Wildlife Management Areas require hunters to possess an annual public hunting permit. This $48 permit provides access to more than 1 million acres of public land throughout the Lone Star State. An interactive map of Texas public hunting areas along with more information about public hunting can be found at tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public.
One surefire way to tap into some excellent waterfowl action during November is to spend some time along the coastal rice prairies west of Houston, in and around communities like Eagle Lake, Wharton, Garwood and El Campo. These areas are just a short drive away and provide significant winter habitat to migrating ducks and geese every year.
The downside of hunting the rice prairies to the west is that most of these properties are leased by groups of hunters or outfitters. Booking a hunt with an outfitter will provide you with the most bang for your buck, as they often have access to a large number of fields and ponds that have been scouted before your arrival.
One excellent outfit on the Garwood Prairie is Red Bluff Prairie Hunting Club, and another good one that operates out of the Columbus area is Top-Flight Hunting Preserve.
The advantage to going on a guided hunt with one of these operations is that the hard work needed for success already has been done for you. These outfits will transport you to one of their comfortable blinds in an all-terrain vehicle, and your hunt will take place on a well-managed pond that’s chock full of prime food and habitat for both ducks and geese. All you have to do is show up and get ready to make some great shots.
Waterfowl hunters should consider a few factors as they prepare to set up in an area. Ducks always land into the wind, so hunters should try to set up with the wind at their backs. Hunters at all costs should avoid setups that put the wind blowing into their faces. Crosswinds will work fine, but head-on winds only produce tough shot opportunities.
In a perfect scenario, with the wind blowing from behind the blind, hunters should leave a gap in the center of the decoy spread so decoying birds have an area to land. This hole should have an even number of decoys on each side of it.
In a crosswind situation, there should still be a hole in the spread that’s positioned in front of the blind. More decoys should be positioned on the upwind side of this hole, while significantly less should be set up on the downwind side. The larger concentration of decoys on the upwind side of the spread should draw birds across the hole in front of the blind as they cup into the wind to land.
A huge part of waterfowl hunting is excellent dog work, and retrievers also get to join in on the action in November after a long hiatus. Above all, waterfowl hunting is an addicting adventure that many cherish.