Rain changes deer patterns

With ponds, sloughs and bayous dry in the northern portions of Texas, more mallards have been harvested along the coast.
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It's nice to have to wash the mud off my truck.

Been a while since bumpy county road ruts were filled with water. Some areas of Matagorda County enjoyed three to five inches of rain last week, temporarily lifting the burn ban for at least a week.

I actually lay in water this week while hunting geese in a Wharton County rice field.

No, I am not complaining at all, despite the muddy boots and waders. Neither are waterfowl hunters and outfitters who enjoyed the freshwater recharge of what had become stagnant, evaporating roost ponds.

While the rains were a blessing, the water was quickly soaked up by the parched earth and the 30-knot north winds that accompanied the stiff cold front. The good news is more cold fronts are on the way and, prayerfully, more rain with it.

Rains in South Texas have "greened" up pastures and senderos that had been mere dust.

While the ground welcomes the moisture, deer hunters this time of year do not.

Drought conditions are a boon around feeders, since mast and forage are in short supply in the woods. Deer have to use supplemental food plots and golden corn, so hunters capitalize on that pattern.

However, when conditions are lush, whitetails have plenty of forage to sustain their bodies and rarely come to feeders.

With corn averaging around $9 a bag, that's good news for a hunter's pocketbook, but for those with limited time in the blind, deer sightings could be at a premium.

"We are not seeing much of anything," South Texas guide Russell Hicks said. "Everything is green down there with the recent rains and not many deer are coming out."

That should change when the rut gets going later this month.

FISHING REMAINS STEADY

Though recent temperatures prompted me to light the fireplace for the first time this fall, our coastal mercury readings remain relatively mild. That bodes well for bay anglers, since November was such a solid month across the coast.

"I have been doing this for over 30 years, and I am telling you fishing has been as good as I can remember," said guide James Plaag of Silver King Adventures. "We have been on a school of big trout for a month and have caught and released too many five- to seven-pounders to count."

Plaag said wading mud and shell with MirrOlures and topwaters in East Galveston Bay has been the best pattern, with a few eight-pounders released as well.

"Yeah, it hasn't rained much, but our bays are full of fish. It has been as good as it gets," he said.

The same held true in just about every other bay system in Texas.

The big question I get is: "How is the red tide affecting fishing?"

The answer I have given countless times is the red tide is present in a few areas, but there are still so many fish to catch.

Aside from a few blowing cold fronts, there is no reason December shouldn't be just as productive as November.

Just ask Capt. Charlie Paradoski whose charter took full four-man limits of trout and redfish in East Matagorda Bay.

FIRST SPLIT OF DUCK SEASON MEMORABLE

Duck season is closed until Dec. 10, but many seasoned coastal waterfowlers are calling the first month of the season simply incredible.

Since water has been a premium due to the drought, ducks have fewer places to roost, thereby concentrating flocks.

Heck, this week I even had a drake scaup hanging on my pond for three days.

I am seeing ducks in places I have never seen ducks before, and the shortage of water is the culprit.

More mallards have been seen along the coast due to the shortage of water in Northeast Texas, but duck hunters are not complaining.

Greenheads have long been a prized duck for shotgunners and hearing the "wheeze" of a drake working your decoys ranks right up there with a limit of large speckled trout on topwaters and/or a wide, heavy-horned whitetail.

The last two months of duck season should continue strong, as long as wildlife managers can afford the cost of diesel to run water wells to re-pump evaporating ponds.

Please put rain on your Christmas wish list.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed hunting and fishing guide (www.matagordasunriselodge.com.


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