Texas duck hunting can create some of the best opportunities in the country, if you approach it right.
There are plenty of things you need to know about Texas duck hunting, from the spots that work to the gear you'll need. We could publish endless lists of things to remember.
But here's the main thing: experience makes the difference. The more you get out there and do it, the more you'll learn about the ducks and the land in your area. There's no master's course in duck hunting at any college in the world; it's all about hours spent on the ponds, lakes and shores to find, shoot and harvest ducks.
View the slideshow to see the Texas duck hunting tips that can be translated to general US duck hunting, too.
Keeping It Legal
Duck hunting can get particularly complicated in the licensing department. Every state differs, but for most if you're hunting on public land you'll need an annual hunting permit or daily hunting permit, a state waterfowl stamp endorsement receipt and the federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp, also known as the Duck Stamp.
Keep them in a zip lock bag or waterproof container on your person, in case the game warden comes calling.
Laying a Decoy Line
Ducks won't often fly over your blind without an invitation that things are safe, which is where decoys come in. There's no greater feeling for a hunter than when a flock locks up and drops toward your spread. While there's multiple strategies on how to set them up, the main idea is to keep a landing zone open for your ducks within range of the blind, and to attach a jerk cord to your decoys to simulate some realistic movement of swimming ducks.
Hitting a Duck at the Right Distance
You've only got so many shots and a few precious opportunities to bring down your limit, so make sure you're not missing them due to a poor pattern or improperly gauging distance.
Like most things, this can be easily corrected with time on the range, and playing around with different choke tubes. It's simple enough, but too many hunters don't put in the practice with the choke and ammo they'll be using in the field. Know the distance you'll likely be taking shots and practice leading clays to increase your chances of success.
Finding a Spot and Keeping it Secret
One of the many things hunters and anglers have in common is how much they cherish a "honey pot" they've discovered on their own. The TPWD offers a great public database of hunting spots, but it's more likely you'll have to work to find a place that's not already crowded.
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While hunters are usually more than happy to help or share their advice, if a buddy lets you in on a prime location, don't announce it to everyone you know or go there without his permission.
Duck hunting is a dirty, sweaty, and bloody sport, but that doesn't mean it's without its manners and rules. Know the etiquette of the group you'll be sharing a blind with, namely your shot areas, who will be calling the shots, and who will using the duck call.
Also, don't go "sky-busting" -or shooting ducks at a far-off range that's likely to cripple them too far off to be recovered.
Man's Best Friend
A good gun dog once seemed like a luxury, but after being out with a fine retriever you won't know how you went without one.
If you're a serious hunter and don't have the time or budget to train a dog yourself, find a friend with one. They'll recover ducks you would have undoubtedly lost without them, not to mention there's a certain joy added to the trip in seeing a retriever happily do what it does best.
Get Good Gear
Gun and ammo aside, you'll need good camouflage and waders. Get camouflage clothing that will blend you specifically into the blind area you'll be hunting in and a hat or face paint that will hide your face well. Ducks, especially those on frequently-hunted lands, are very cautious and will wheel away at the first sign of a human presence.
Also get good waders that are free of leaks to ensure you're staying warm and dry. And while some hunters are just fine posting up on a bucket or log, I'd highly recommend getting a good marsh seat. Check out our list of the best duck hunting gear.
Every responsible gun owner knows good safety, but it's always wise to think about the particular safety for the type of hunting you'll be doing.
Always be aware of your zone of fire, only flick the safety off when you're ready to shoot and flick it back on as soon as your shots are expended. While general safety rules are still the same, the close range of hunters in a blind requires both individual discipline and good communication to stay safe.
If you're not already aware, duck hunting requires non-toxic ammo to prevent any environmental damage from lead, so leave your old dove loads at home.
You'll find plenty of steel ammo marketed specifically towards duck hunters, and everyone has their own preference, but for beginners I'd aim for a 3 inch, 12 gauge, number 2 shot with at least 1400 fps velocity.
While we're on the subject of steel ammo, know the true spirit behind duck hunting is conservation, so be sure to carry on the tradition yourself in the field.
Be aware of local laws, know how to identify birds before taking your shots, and pick up your shells, trash, and belongings before leaving the area. With every participant doing their part to conserve land, ducks, and the sport's reputation, we're ensuring that duck hunting is here for years to come.