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Above, Tim, Jim and Travis pose for a photo during a bird hunt. Travis holds his old model 12 Winchseter pump. Photo from Jim Darnell

Stories on hunting birds across Texas

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

I love to hunt. Not so much for deer and large animals anymore. Just birds. I am a wing shooter. Quail, pheasants, doves and ducks. The quail are all gone. I’m too old to walk long corn fields in the Panhandle for pheasants. So now, it’s doves and ducks. Especially ducks.

My son, Tim loves to duck hunt so we get to spend lots of time together. This season was tough because of the drought. Some of the lakes we hunt were dry or near dry. Most of our hunts were mediocre — 4-7 birds a hunt.

My granddaughter, Demaris, who is a senior at University of West Florida, got to hunt with us a couple of times. My grandson, Timothy, hunted with us a few times but he had a son born right in the middle of the season. Not good for hunting when you have been up at 1 a.m. with a crying baby and the alarm goes off at 4 a.m.

One of our best hunts was on a piece of one of our lakes — probably a third normal size. We hunted it one morning and the three of us got 13 birds. Not a full limit by OK. We watched the birds and knew we were not on the hot spot.

We waited for a strong north wind and built a temporary blind out of palm fronds. Palms are great for duck blinds. The cows won’t eat them. In years past, I always used canes. But the cows love cane and my blind often was shredded when we arrived in the dark.

But on this day we were on the X spot with a strong north wind and a good blind. Our friend, Bill Jones, hunted with Tim and me. A few decoys, with two spinner decoys, were adequate. We didn’t see big groups of ducks but the one’s we did see came down the narrow strip of water right to us. We were all shooting semi-automatics and birds began to drop. We didn’t miss many. After a short time we had 16 birds — two short of our total limit.

Then, five very fast ducks came straight over our decoys. Tim and Bill thought they were widgeons but I knew they were divers but I couldn’t identify the species. Two birds fell out on the first volley.

The ducks were Mergansers — fish eaters sometimes called saw bills. They are not good to eat but the big hooded male was a real trophy. I have one mounted and consider him my most beautiful mount. Bill kept him as a trophy.

About two weeks ago, I drove to Early, Texas (near Brownwood) to hunt with my buddy Allen Piper. We have been like a father-son for many years. Allen called and said, “My front lake is covered with ducks.”

We set a date for us to hunt. Beth does not like for me to make long drives by myself so I took Joshua Jones, Bill’s son, with me. Josh hunts with me often. He is in love and is about marry a beautiful, smart Texas Aggie.

The next morning Allen, Josh and I took our places on the dam in some shallow holes. At first light ducks began to pour into the pond in huge numbers. Like thick as mosquitoes. In 14 minutes, we had our 18 ducks floating on the pond. Most were driving ducks — ringnecks but also some gadwalls and teal.

When Tim heard about our hunt, he wanted to go to Early. So with just a few days of duck season remaining my wife, Beth, Tim and I loaded his truck for the trip. I also brought my young friend Travis from Cowboy Church. I have been mentoring Travis in fishing and hunting for almost three years.

Beth and Jennifer, Allen’s wife, were so glad to see each other. They talked most of our time there.

Next morning all four of us were on the dam. There were not the number of birds that we had seen two weeks previous but there were plenty. All four guns started blazing early.

Travis was shooting an old classic Model 12 Winchester pump that he inherited from his grandfather. He is learning to shoot, five ducks died from steel shot coming out of the long barrel of the Model 12.

In a little over an hour we had 19 ducks floating on the lake. Not quite our four man limit but not bad. In the 19 ducks were two huge redheads — real trophies. Allen’s black lab, Drake, quickly scooped up all the dead ducks.

By the time we got to the house the ladies had a huge breakfast of eggs, sausage, and biscuits waiting on the stove.

Duck season ended on Jan. 29. This was the last week. I always feel sad when it ends but have hopes for more dusks next year.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666