Late Season Hunting Opportunities
Late season hunting opportunities abound across the state. Many hunters though, have abandoned the marshes and woodlots for the comfort of their warm fireplace. If you thrill to the sound of whistling wings over decoys, or the sight of a big ‘meat hog’ slipping within view during the last moments of daylight, this might be a mistake! We modern day sportsmen and women have it made when it comes to staying warm and dry. With today’s modern fabrics, it’s now possible to dress for the occasion and remain comfortable afield, regardless the weather. Long gone are the days of long john’s worn under blue jeans and a plaid hunting coat!
Winter Hunting Advantages
Granted, hunting during the ‘dead of winter’ might not be as comfortable as it was back in early autumn. Although, cold weather hunting does have its advantages. Keeping meat chilled without having to rush to a processor, or pack a big cooler full of ice in anticipation of a harvest, are a couple of the things I like about hunting this time of year. Big game such as deer, hogs and javelina are up and moving more this time of year. Most of the acorn crop is gone and wildlife is depending more on supplemental food in the form of food plots and wildlife feeders. Find their food source and you are well on your way to filling your freezer with a supply of healthful and tasty wild game.
Duck and goose season continue through February 27 in the north zone. Because of my addiction to hunting deer and wild hogs, I haven’t shot a single duck so far this season. That will change next week. Deer season comes to a close in the north zone this weekend. I already have my new Redhead brand mallard decoys strung up with cord and weights. My spinning wing decoys are all supplied with fresh batteries. The marshes adjacent the woods where I hunt deer are packed with mallards. They’re, pushed south by the cold fronts up in the Midwest. When snow and ice cover the crop fields up north where waterfowl feed in late winter, they often make a mass migration to more southern climes. The past few weeks has seen a big influx of mallards, gadwall and widgeon in many areas.
I am pretty well stocked on fresh venison and wild pork. I am though, longing for some marinated mallard breasts stuffed with jalapeno and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled over hot hickory coals!
I’ve been inquiring with some of my waterfowl guide buddies about geese in the northern region. Most are reporting scant numbers. This could change with the passage of a severe cold front up north. Big winter wheat fields often hold large numbers of snow geese during late season. Goose numbers have dwindled along the coast in the past decade. My long-time friend Mike Ladnier, who has for many years operated Bay Prairie Outfitters not far from El Campo, has moved his hunting operation way north to Saskatchewan, Canada. There simply are not enough geese wintering on the coast to provide good shooting for his clients. Many goose hunters today, that for years hunted the rice fields along the upper coast, have concentrated their efforts in the Panhandle or north Texas. Knox County usually provides great late season hunting on Lesser Canada geese.
Javelina Makes Tasty Fajitas
For several years now, I’ve enjoyed an archery javelina hunt in Knox County with friends at Ranger Creek Ranch www.rangercreekranch.com. Many people believe it’s necessary to drive to south Texas or the desert southwest to hunt javelina. In truth, there is a very healthy population of these toothy little ‘brush pigs’ in Knox County. Years ago, they were stocked on the huge Waggoner Ranch and their numbers spilled over to adjacent ranches. With the close of javelina season Feb 24, there’s still plenty of time to plan your hunt. I get a lot of laughs when I tell fellow hunters that I absolutely love cooking and eating javelina. The meat tastes like a blend of feral hog and venison, very lean and tasty when slow smoked with moisture. I usually prepare fajitas from javelina backstrap when we are lucky to get a javelin early into the hunt. Most of my fellow hunters commit that once they try the meat, they consider it as good or better than fajitas made from beef.
Quail season continues through February 24 and quail numbers are thankfully rebounding across many of the western counties. Granted, most of us don’t have access to really good wild quail hunting property nor the dogs to hunt them. There are however, some very fine preserves around the state where hunters have the opportunity to hunt released birds. I usually schedule an upland hunt or two between now and March. There is something very special about quail roasted in butter and Ritz Cracker crumbs in a Dutch Kettle, cooked on the side of a campfire using hot coals!
Let’s Not Neglect Fishing
Some of the biggest stripers of the year are being landed at Lake Texoma. Bill Carey, with Striper Express, says trophy class stripers are being landed on jigs with ten-inch soft plastic trailers. Huge schools of gulls are now present, pointing the way to feeding fish! At Lake Tawakoni, the trophy blue catfish bite is about as good as it gets. Drift fishing with big pieces of cut bait is paying off with plenty of jumbo size whiskerfish. If a good ‘mess’ of eater channel catfish is your desire, consider heading to Lake Fork. Bait up a couple of holes with range cubes, and keep a good cheese bait within inches of bottom at depths of 20-28 feet.
Yep, there is lots to do in the great outdoors the next couple of months. Then there is spring turkey season to look forward to. So, break out that warm winter clothing and let’s get after em’!
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas weekends or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org.