Coastal duck hunting is off the grid and packed with adventure.
Story and Photography by Robert Sloan
One of the craziest hunters I’ve ever seen came across the Intracoastal Waterway and up to the ramp at Stingaree Marina located on East Galveston Bay. He had six ducks – four gadwall, a widgeon and a pintail.
I ask him where he had hunted.
“Back there in that little marsh pond,” he said. “Nobody ever hunts back there. I put out about a dozen decoys, lay out sheets of camo over this canoe and wait for the ducks to come in. It’s totally off the grid, and usually set’s me up with some pretty good shooting.”
That’s the fun thing about hunting along the Texas coast. It’s wide open and unlimited in adventure. Plus, the cost is minimal. Most of the coastal marsh and bays are free to hunt. But there are sections that are set aside as wildlife management areas. Some are good and easy to hunt. Others require a good bit of exploring before you figure them out. And there is always the option of hiring a guide if you really want to hunt off the grid.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s a pack of buddies and I used to hunt on Matagorda Island. That’s where Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ran duck hunts on the many small freshwater ponds scattered out along the island. The headquarters for the hunts was the old Army Base. We had the option of running across the seven miles across the bay from Port O’Connor to the island, or spending the night on the island in one of the old buildings that had electricity and restrooms. At any rate, if you wanted to hunt the sign up time was 5 a.m. We would pick the area to hunt, load up in a trailer and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel would haul us to the pond and drop us off.
I’ve duck hunted all over Texas for over 50 years. The hunts we had on the island were some of the best I’ve ever had. The ducks, lots of them, would head over to the island ponds after feeding on the bays and in the rice fields. Big flights of pintails and widgeon would start coming into our decoys at about eight o’clock in the morning. Back then we could shoot 10 ducks. It wasn’t at all unusual for us to get full limits of bull sprigs (drake pintails) – that would be 10 apiece. It was excellent shooting, but it was all about getting set up on the right pond. Many of the ponds didn’t attract ducks, other were like magnets.