Famous author Charles Dickens once wrote a fairly apt novel that opened with the unforgettable phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
While that may have been true in 19th century Europe as the French Revolution prepared to sweep across the European continent, it’s also a fair way to describe things right now as the final buzzer prepares to sound. this weekend for the 2021-22 duck season taking place here in the southern Great Plains.
On the one hand, duck shooting is good for some, although it does require a bit of sweat to keep the water open on chilly mornings and find places the ducks and geese want to fly as the sun creeps in. on the horizon.
Guides from North Texas Outfitters (www.northtexasoutfitters.com; 903-815-9842) are among those finding the best times in the world of waterfowl hunting as they continue to decoy reservoirs and the small lakes of the Red River. Valley region between Wichita Falls, Texas and their headquarters in Waurika, Okla.
But their success at the buzzer requires a lot of windshield scouting time, not to mention a bit of out-of-the-box thinking.
How? ‘Or’ What? Over the past week, as low temperatures have hit the low to mid-teens at times, Dakota Stowers and her NTO guides have had to resort to using Ice Eaters to try and keep small plans down. waters open for early morning frosty shoots. While that’s not unusual in the north, it’s a bit of a late-season oddity here.
That extra effort is paying off with some good duck sprouts for NTO customers from as far away as Illinois and South Carolina at the end of the season. Plus, Stowers and his NTO guides have the photos to back up their success, posting some very impressive end-of-season duck and geese counts on the outfitter’s social media.
In fact, some solid finishing chases saw NTO put their clients on a seven-man limit and a five-man limit shot in a short time earlier last week.
As is usually the case so late in January, as ducks begin to push north from the Gulf Coast, NTO’s latest shoots have been mixed efforts at this time with mallards, gadwalls, ducks, divers and Canada geese.
True to late-season form here in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma, several trophy pintail drakes were also taken – or bulltails as most waterfowl hunters call them – along with a few trophy canvas drakes.
Notice that Stowers and his guides aren’t the only ones having success in the southern part of the Sooner State as the ducks begin to push back north. Longtime Whitesboro, Texas resident Doug Rodgers and his son Evan enjoyed similar success this past weekend, part of a four-man party that ended up with 18 ducks at the BC Hunt Club Wetlands in southeastern Oklahoma.
Most of the Red River area quacks the group shot last Saturday morning in the flooded woods of Choctaw County were mallard drakes with a few green-winged teals sprinkled on. According to Rodgers, only an early tee time kept the group from getting a boundary on a day that produced good late-season shooting action.
While those reports are good, others certainly aren’t, according to an end-of-season story that appeared on the Ducks Unlimited website (www.Ducks.org) last week. In this story by outdoor writer John Pollmann, the other end of the spectrum of late season waterfowl hunting success in Oklahoma was told.
In fact, Pollmann’s report showed that not everyone is all smiles right now as the current season heads toward the finish line north of the Red River. He wrote that “…a look at the statewide summary of waterfowl reports from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation paints a rather gloomy picture of duck concentrations in state, with most areas reporting “low” to “very low” numbers of ducks and geese.”
Frankly speaking, this year’s season has been downright dismal according to some guides in other parts of Oklahoma.
“It was probably one of my worst seasons ever,” Troy Cunningham said in Pollmann’s DU Migration Alert story.
Cunningham, who owns and operates Legend Waterfowl in the northwest and central parts of Oklahoma, is certainly not alone since many other hunters in Oklahoma and Texas are also frowning on a season. which didn’t work very well.
These reports are in stark contrast to reports further north in the central flyway which show very good mallard shooting lately.
In fact, looking at social media reports from guide Jake Latendresse, co-owner of Prairie Rock Outfitters in the North Platte River area of western Nebraska, there have been some good green bud sprouts during the last week as duck season comes to an end in the Cornhusker State, well north of the Texoma region.
So much so that a number of Bassmaster Elite series anglers, Bassmaster.com editor Steve Bowman, and renowned wildlife and fishing photographer James Overstreet have all embarked on a mallard hunt. with Latendresse in the open swamps and backwater areas of the North Platte. .
By the way, since Latendresse is one of the best digital photographers and videographers out there – he’s taken pictures and filmed all over the world, and is a regular videographer for the Bassmaster Elite series – it’s worth following him on Instagram and Facebook. If you like to see big whitetail deer, big mule deer, Merriam turkeys and lots of ducks and geese, sure.
So what gives? Well, it looks like the ducks – or at least the bulk of the mallards in this flyway – apparently spent much of the season north of this part of the world. Cunningham certainly doesn’t disagree, noting that there was a surge of pintails and green-winged teal in November, but not much in northwest and central Oklahoma since then.
“We just didn’t see that big push of mallards,” Cunningham noted in Pollmann’s story. “We have water and we have food. We just don’t have the big ducks.
Unfortunately, this complaint has been common in recent years across much of the southern United States, where hunters simply don’t see ducks as they hoped at the bottom of the Mississippi Flyway and Central Flyway. .
Is it climate change, bad weather maps, changes in farming practices, or just bad luck and bad timing? In truth, the answer is probably all of the above. Some places with good habitat still found good sprouts, others – even with excellent habitat and food in place – weren’t so lucky.
At the end of the day, as the 2021-22 Duck season draws to a close, this tough season or not, you need to keep setting the alarm clock and getting out early, because you never know. Scout hard, do what you can to turn the odds in your favor and hope for the best no matter how your season has gone.
Because it only takes one or two good mornings in the blind duck to change perspective and seasonal memories. And hopefully this weekend, maybe the bulk of North Texas and Oklahoma duck hunters will all find their way to some good end-of-season shoots, fuel to keep the dreams alive alive during the long off-season ahead of us.
We can only hope, right? And maybe use our yearly waterfowl hunting hopes and dreams to write the world’s next great novel, A Tale of Two Duck Blinds.