Don’t get offended if somebody comes along and wishes you a happy woodcock season. People are celebrating lots of different holidays and events this time of year, and even if you don’t hunt woodcocks, you should respect the traditions and beliefs of those who do.
This is a great time of year for folks who enjoy sports. Whether you’re watching the China Spring football team pull off a state championship win via a last-second field goal, attending a high school or college basketball game, sitting on the couch alongside some Aggie football players while the college playoffs are unfolding, or if you’re taking part in some hands-on outdoor sports activities like hunting, fishing, or camping, there are plenty of opportunities out there to keep you from getting bored over the holiday season.
The second split of dove season opened on Saturday and thanks to the cold fronts that have pushed through Central Texas over the past month, the area is rich in targets. Wildlife biologist and avid outdoorsman Josh Sears reports that he and his hunting companions had limited out on dove by 10 a.m. on reopening day.
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“Mourning dove are migrating in droves and are prevalent in the native prairie grasses positioned close to mesquite trees and little bluestem flats,” Sears said. “The white-winged dove are also hitting the fields, stocking up on food resources for the winter.”
Sears says the split opening typically doesn’t get a lot of hunting pressure, so now is a great time to take advantage and to stock the freezer. “The second season is more unpredictable, mainly due to weather. Weather patterns are frequently changing this time of year and the birds adapt and move around in large flocks. A field that produces one day may be dead the next or may have even more. You can’t predict.” Sears has been seeing flocks of more than a hundred birds in various fields and locations in recent days.
Deer hunters are finding that a lot of white-tails survived the brutal drought and severe summer scorching, with good numbers of bucks and does making their way into the scope sights, but as predicted this summer, body weight and antler quality are lower than average. Deer season closes on Jan. 1 in the North Zone and Jan. 15 in the South.
If you’re looking to bag a woodcock, the season opens today, and Sears says it should be an excellent start, with Arctic air pushing southward from Canada. “If you think you’re a crack shot with a shotgun, go try your hand at woodcock this year,” he said. His pro-tip is to use low-brass 9-shot with an improved cylinder.
Down on the coast
Former Central Texas broadcaster and current beach denizen Tyler Thorsen says this week marks the anniversary of the big freeze of 1983, but is hopeful that the upcoming surge of cold air won’t be as brutal, adding that last year’s freeze did have a negative effect on trout numbers in the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay, but anecdotal evidence from veteran guides indicates that migrants from the upper coast brought numbers up in late 2021.
December is a good time to scoot away to the beach, and Thorsen reports that flounder season opened back up on the 15th, and there are still good numbers in the bay. “Redfish and black drum will be in good numbers in the canals and channels close to the flats, especially during the cold,” he said. “Trout will be there too. Use Fishbites and fresh dead shrimp for the drum and redfish, and soft plastics or corky type lures worked in deeper areas.”
He says that sometimes, they’ll take the lures at normal retrieve speeds but sometimes slower is better. “Even with rough, cold water, black drum, whiting and redfish will be in the surf with pompano when the water clears and gets warmer. Again, use Fishbites and shrimp for best results.”
Way to a sportsman’s heart
Finding the right gift for the outdoor sports enthusiast on your list can be frustrating. Most hunters and anglers are particular to certain brands and types of gear and figuring out what they need can be as challenging as actually catching a fish or bagging a deer.
But with one of the primary goals of hunting and fishing being bringing home freshly-harvested food from the wild, one solution to your shopping woes is gifting cookware for when the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
Cast iron skillets or Dutch ovens are a staple in outdoor cooking, and every grill master could always use new or upgraded grilling utensils like tongs, skewers, spatulas, or other implements to make the outdoor cooking experience easier.