Nov 1, 2017 - Texas may not be the first state that comes to mind when hunters think of ducks, but the Lone Star State is attracting more birds each year. Its location at the bottom of the Central Flyway makes it a prime location.
The Texas Wildlife Association estimates the total number of ducks wintering in-state this year at more than 6 million, up from 4.7 million in 2016 and well above the average of 3.8 million over the last two decades.
Kevin Kraai, the waterfowl program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told TWA’s Nate Skinner that the increase is two-fold: first, the ample amount of rainfall that’s fallen over the last two years and followed drought conditions the first half of this decade, and second, rapidly expanding habitat in the middle of the state including small cattle tanks and stock ponds.
“Most of these small, man-made bodies of water are less than an acre in size,” he said. “Many lie within the triangle of terrain between College Station, Paris, and Breckinridge. In this area, there are new ponds popping up everywhere, as landowners are constantly creating new watering holes for cattle. These tanks began to account for thousands of square miles of waterfowl habitat.”
TWA says there is no “fool-proof” recipe for creating the perfect duck hole, but in Texas, cattle tanks sporting some emergent vegetation are attracting the most traffic. So, in Texas, a beautiful circle of life – man, ducks, steers. (There’s a Chik-Fil-A commercial in there somewhere, we just know it.)
Kwaai also noted limited cattle disturbance as an important factor.
“Tanks that receive a controlled amount of livestock activity are used frequently by ducks,” he said. “Both too much and too little cattle disturbance produce a pond void of waterfowl.”
These small, man-made bodies of water provide important shelter for the ducks, and Kwaai said waterfowl in Texas are finding plenty of habitats, food, and water as well as benefitting from very little pressure. In central Texas especially, most hunting takes place on larger bodies of water, leaving the tanks and ponds as undisturbed habitat for ducks to rest.
So, get down to Texas and buddy up with a rancher. Chances are, you’ll be in for some good hunting.