The other day, I saw a video clip of Elmer Fudd watching Bugs and Daffy debate whether it was duck season or wabbit season, and as I pondered the question, I realized that right now is darn near EVERYTHING season.
Deer, turkey, duck, quail, goose, snipe, rabbit, squirrel, and most furbearing animal seasons are open now, so whether you’re after a shoulder mount and freezer full of venison, a Thanksgiving meal starring a wild turkey, or a spicy pot of rabbit stew, the gate is wide open.
Plus, the second split of dove season opens just a few weeks from now, on Dec. 15, in all 3 zones. It closes in the North on Dec. 31, in the Central on Jan. 7, and the South Zone wraps up on Jan. 21.
There’s nothing like the tradition and atmosphere of a deer camp, but there are other ways to scratch your wild game itch. Small-game hunts offer wild meat rewards without the time and expense of a deer hunt, and you don’t have to travel far to find good places to hunt. Central Texas is rich in fields, streams, and woods, and any place with nearby water, pecan, or oak trees will likely be home to rabbits and squirrels.
Small-game hunting requires stealth, patience, and a keen eye, and involves boots on the ground, so camouflage clothing and light steps are essential to getting close enough for a clean shot.
Guns of choice are usually .22-caliber rifles, and .410 or 20-gauge shotguns. Heavy-duty clothing is essential for safely pushing through the briars and brambles where only rabbits go. Ripping your skin open on a thorny vine will quickly put a damper on a hunting trip.
Pay attention to all hunting laws, as well as any special regulations that may apply to the county or area you’re hunting. There are even rules for species that don’t have a maximum limit, such as restrictions on methods or times of day. The game warden will surely know the law – and teach it to you the hard way if you’re out of compliance.
Love is in the air
As you’re heading to Grandma’s house for turkey and football, keep an eye out for love-struck bucks and does rutting around and making a new batch of babies in the spring. Deer are on the move more than usual during mating season, and they get so carried away that they forget to be wary of vehicles – and it’s no fun for anybody when you go deer hunting with the front end of the station wagon.
On the upside for hunters, they don’t pay much attention to you, either, and mature bucks will come in closer and stick around longer if they think there’s a receptive doe in the area.
Quick fishing tip
Here’s a fishing tip that a life-long catfisherman told me a few years ago – if you want to catch a big blue cat in late November, cast some cut shad into deep water and fish it right on the bottom.
Lake Waco is quickly gaining a reputation as a top-producing lake for blue catfish, thanks to a generous stocking program and slot limit. Blue cats measuring up to 30 inches or above 45 inches can be retained (and only one fish over 45 inches can be kept per day.)
So far, the plan is paying off, with an overall increase in the number of trophy blues showing up both in population sampling as well as on social media posts.
Rainbow trout takeover
It’s about time to start thinking about rainbows. Not the mystical kind with unicorns and pots of gold, but the kind you reel in and cook in the skillet.
This time of year, Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists start stocking small lakes and streams in Texas with rainbow trout, and thousands of fish will be stocked in local waters over the next few months.
Buena Vista Park Lake, Nora Pond, Amsler Park, several spots in the Temple/Belton area, and a number of other waters throughout Central Texas will soon be teeming with tasty trout.
Rainbow trout thrive in cold water and can be caught on natural and artificial baits. Top baits include cheese, marshmallows, kernel corn, small spinner baits, and fly fishermen have a lot of luck with hand-tied flies. Baits can be fished either off the bottom or suspended under a bobber.
A valid Texas freshwater fishing license package is required to fish for trout. There is a daily bag limit of 5 trout. Youth ages 16 and younger and all anglers fishing within state parks are exempt from the fishing license requirement.