Last Saturday, the plan in my neck of the woods was to go duck hunting.
Because that is the plan every year on the first Saturday of the second split of the North Texas duck season.
Why? Because in the fall, there are two things that yours truly enjoys immensely, duck hunting and deer hunting.
And therein lies the problem — the first half of the duck season and the best part of the deer season collide every year on the calendar during the month of November.
Which led to a long ago plan to call a truce between the two warring halves of my hunter’s heart: November is for deer hunting and December and January are for duck hunting.
Case closed. End of story. Problem solved.
So for the last several years, I have dutifully followed that plan to a “T.” And as a result, I have generally ended each hunting season all smiles, full of memories and usually with some venison and fowl resting in the freezer.
But this year the freezer hasn’t been opened much.
Lumber company timbering on our East Texas deer spot has kept venison from finding its way to our kitchen.
Not to mention drought conditions that have put the kibosh on the spots I have access to duck hunt.
Texoma is nearly five feet low and devoid of ducks. The private waters I’ve had access to are all but dry and equally devoid of birds. And that has meant that the key component to a roast mallard dinner is currently hard to come by in my household.
All of which has left me scratching my head and searching for a duck hunting “Plan B.”
That plan finally materialized this week when my phone rang and outfitting friend J.J. Kent (www.kentoutdoors.com/; 903-271-5524) offered a solution with a duck hunt in eastern Fannin County.
“It ought to be pretty good,” said Kent. “The water is low on this small lake but we’ve been doing pretty good so far during the second split.”
So at the appointed O’Dark Thirty time, I met Kent and his pal Rob Lay from the Metroplex for our midweek hunt. After shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, we tossed out Kent’s prodigious spread of Avian X decoys and settled back in the blind to await legal shooting light.
While I silently wondered whether or not this fall’s personal hunting dry spell might come to an end.
Fifteen minutes before legal light arrived, I began to get my answer as the first whistle of whispering wings sounded overhead.
Then more winged music arrived to punctuate the cold, still dawn. Followed by a fully feathered orchestra that continued to gather in the sky above in singles, pairs, and small flocks building to a crescendo.
The amazing early a.m. show was finally completed as a sky full of gadwalls, wigeon, mallards and teal circled the water hole with quacks, peeps and whistles while providing a waterfowl version of a full symphony.
So mesmerizing was the aerial display that I was somewhat reluctant to see legal shooting time arrive, knowing that the booming of scatterguns would bring the curtain down.
But even after the first volley of shots roared from our pumpguns and autos, the birds continued to appear on the horizon, circle overhead a couple of times, listen to Kent’s music on an acrylic Zink duck call, and then put their boots down to check out the decoy spread up close-and-personal.
Even with my early season suspect shooting — each off-target shot by yours truly was greeted by Kent’s hearty laughter — we had no shortage of success. So much so that the three of us quickly built our way towards a limit of puddle ducks.
To the point that as the sun began to peak over the eastern horizon, Lay put the finishing touches on things when he downed the morning’s final bird. That bird, easily retrieved by Kent’s top-notch lab Bo, was part of a three-man limit of gadwalls, wigeon, and a mallard drake.
In short, it was an epic hunt, easily one of the most memorable outings I’ve experienced in my 30-plus years of waterfowling.
And having been blessed to hunt in a number of duck and goose rich spots all across the Red River Valley, the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains and the Midwest, that’s saying something.
Kent explained why he thought our mid-December shooting was so good.
“First, the big cold front this past week certainly moved some new birds south into our area,” he said.
“And next, with so many dried up ponds, sloughs, and small lakes in the Texoma area, if you’ve got some water and some sort of natural vegetation to provide these birds with some food, you’ll probably have some ducks.”
Add in good concealment — Kent’s blinds are as well constructed and brushed up as any I’ve hunted out of — along with a good decoy spread and top-end calling and it’s a recipe for duck hunting success no matter what the weatherman’s forecast might be.
As we gathered the dekes, slapped each other on the back, took a few pictures, and headed for home, a thought kept filling my head.
Not bad for dry spell version of “Plan B.”