Over the Christmas holiday we made a quick trip down to far south Texas to visit family. My cousin had arranged a Christmas Eve duck hunt via airboat in some of the back bays of the Laguna Madre system. Reports of recent hunts were very encouraging, as a general drought down there has moved a lot of the birds out to the bays. On the other hand, few things make me more nervous than going on a hunt or fishing trip after hearing about how great conditions have been lately. Somehow, that always seems to work out to "you shoulda been here last week".
We started off with a short boat ride to a palatial blind on a back waterway. Once the blocks were out and the boat moved back, we waited for shooting light and listened to the cries of various shorebirds. Those cries were particularly easy to hear, as the wind was nearly completely still.
Not surprisingly, the ducks didn't really move given the bluebird conditions. We had a few come in: a greenwing teal drake, a mottled duck, and four spoonbills all fell, but we had been hoping for pintails, mottled ducks, wigeon, gadwall, redheads and maybe some divers, not spoonies. Given the conditions, we loaded up and went out to a couple of blinds near the Intercoastal. There, a lone hen redhead came in and fell, with several big flocks trading well out or range. On the ride out, we saw tens of thousands of birds out on the flats. Here are a few hundred:
Since things weren't working out, we moved again, this time to a back channel between a couple of bays.
Though things were still slow, this last location resulted in a small bunch of snow geese coming in to the spread.
We also had a few pintails come in.
Even though we didn't get into a bunch of birds, it was a good hunt with family and a great experience getting to see a bunch of the backcountry that is normally inaccessible. Much of the time we were running over four or five inches of water (lying on top of a very soft bottom) and, absent the airboat, never could have gotten there. The shorebirds were a kick to watch, with roseate spoonbills, snipe, yellowlegs, long billed curlews, brown and white pelicans, and dozens of others I can't identify trading about and around the decoys. For that matter, hunting ducks in a tee shirt is a bit of a novel experience. It's pretty hard to beat a holiday hunt and catching up on the year that's passed while waiting for birds to come in.
Of course, the weather swapped around, with a nice stiff north wind, the day after Christmas. I'll bet the guys out there slayed them.
That's about 2 inches of water and the rest is sticky mud, which makes having a dog to send out for the bird even better. A front was supposed to blow through today, so A and I headed to some salty little ponds not too far out of town. Water is, unsurprisingly, low and before the morning really got going the wind laid some and the temperature stopped dropping. Given the conditions, there wasn't much going on to move the birds and only a very few ducks were flying. We missed a couple of chances but ended up with 2 mallards, one of which donated two breast fillets for prosciutto and the other of which is destined for stir fry or some other quick cooking. Not bad for our first waterfowl outing. Meanwhile, the wind is tearing down out of the North and braised oryx shanks are about ready for dinner. Tomorrow will likely be a great day to be on the water.