Jun
08

Self-guided Duck Hunt (Inland) Rotation

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The following is a rotation list for self-guided inland duck hunts on central Texas lakes or a pond, within 110 miles of Austin.

Do not expect limits on these hunts, as I, Randy Rowley, have a full-time job, am not a guide, hunt on Saturdays (usually), and hunt on highly pressured lakes in an area of Texas that is not known for great duck hunting.  Our results have usually been far from it.  Here is our scorecard to date:

Season Number of Ducks Bagged Number of Hunts Number of Hunters Average Number of Ducks Per Hunt Average Number of Ducks Per Hunter
2020/2021 1 5 20 0.20 0.05
2019/2020 50 (44 on a pond) 11 39 4.55 1.28
2018/2019 5 (5 on a pond) 6 24 0.83 0.21
2017/2018 8 6 18 1.33 0.44
2016/2017 0 4 24 0.00 0.00
2015/2016 9 5 15 1.80 0.60
2014/2015 10 (6 on a pond) 7 28 1.43 0.36
2013/2014 11 (2 on a pond) 6 18 1.83 0.61
2012/2013 16 6 18 2.67 0.89
2011/2012 16 5 17 3.20 0.94
Total 126 (69 on lakes and 57 on ponds) 60 209 2.10 0.60

Some of our successes include:

I can take up to three adult hunters (four including me) on my 2019 20-foot 3-inch camo Excel Bay Pro 203 with a 115 HP Yamaha motor, which has a camo blind that sits on top of it (see below).

We will hunt either Lakes GrangerStillhouse Hollow (aka Stillhouse), Somerville, Belton, or Waco in their Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) or a local pond.

All five lakes are administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  We will hunt until 8:30 – 10:30 AM, depending on how the ducks are flying and the weather conditions (ducks often fly longer when it is overcast).

We will not hunt Lake Georgetown.  The USACE requires a Small Game Permit to hunt waterfowl.  The Lake Georgetown Project Office will only issue 50 small game permits each season.  Small game permits will be administered through an application and a random drawing process and there is a $25 application fee.  See https://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/georgetown/Recreation/Hunting.asp.

We have had our best hunts on Granger and Stillhouse Hollow, so they’re tied for my first choice.

Granger does not require a USACE lake hunting permit.  However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) leases Granger’s WMA’s; consequently, a TPWD annual public hunting permit is required.  The cost is $48/year.  If we decide to hunt Granger we will hunt in the San Gabriel, Willis Creek, or Sore Finger WMA’s.  Taylor Park in Granger is 41 miles from my house and Friendship Park is 47.

Stillhouse, Belton, and Waco do not require a TPWD annual Public hunting permit nor a USACE lake hunting permit (see http://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/stillhouse/Recreation/Hunting.asp).

If we decide to hunt Stillhouse we’ll launch at Riversbend Park (51 miles from my house) and hunt in the Union Grove WMA on the island (the side depends on the direction of the wind) or in a small cove.  Or we’ll launch at Cedar Gap Park and hunt in the Gravel Crossing or Twin Creek WMA’s, up the Lampasas River.

Somerville does not require a USACE lake hunting permit.  You’ll need a TPWD annual public hunting permit if we hunt in the TPWD day hunt area (the undeveloped area designated by the yellow line on the below map).  We must hunt from my boat, be far enough from the shoreline that our shot will not fall on dry land, and must not set up so that we’re shooting in the direction of the shoreline.  If we hunt in the “developed” area of Nails Creek Park (the area designated by the orange line on the below map) we must hunt from my boat at least 200 yards from shore.  We cannot hunt in the area designated by the red line on the below map.  The USACE day hunt area does not require a TPWD annual public hunting permit, although we can only hunt from the shore in that area (we can’t hunt from my boat), so it’s my last choice.  Somerville is 54 miles further than Granger (95 miles from my house), so we’ll have to leave an hour earlier than we would if we were going to hunt Granger.  We’ve only had one good hunt on Somerville, so it’s my next to last choice.

If we decide to hunt Belton, we will hunt either the Owl Creek, White Flint, or Iron Bridge WMA’s.   Leona Park is 69 miles from my house, so we’ll have to leave 30 minutes earlier than we would if we were going to hunt Granger or Stillhouse.  As we’ve yet to bag a duck on Belton, it’s our last choice.

If we decide to hunt Waco we will hunt either in the Flat Rock hunting area or in the Hog Creek or Middle Bosque hunting areas.  Depending on where we hunt, Waco is 58 – 65 miles further than Granger (99 – 106 miles from my house), so we’ll have to leave an hour earlier than we would if we were going to hunt Granger.  Note that all hunters who hunt on Lake Waco must sign a Disclaimer and Waiver of Liability and have it in their possession while hunting.  Also, duck hunters on Lake Waco must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange material (144 square inches on both chest and back) and some type of orange headwear when leaving their hunting destinations.  In addition, no hunting is permitted around Waco Wetlands.  We’ve yet to hunt Waco, so the jury is still out on it.

We also might hunt a pond just east of Austin.  If so, there is a $20/hunter charge and we won’t be using my boat.  We’ll walk a short distance and hunt behind a blind or camo netting or use natural cover.  If we hunt the pond we can take up to five hunters, counting Chris Campbell, the host.

The pond

The outside of the blind

The inside of the blind

The view from the inside of the blind

NOTE: Do not attempt to arrange a hunt with Chris on your own.  To be fair to everyone the pond hunts need to go through me.  If I decide that it won’t over-pressure the ponds, I will first contact Chris.  If he is agreeable to it, I’ll let everyone on the rotation know so the other people on the rotation will have an opportunity to go.  If guys are trying to arrange their own hunts it is bypassing the other guys on the rotation and that’s not fair to them.  It would also contribute to over-pressuring the pond.  If we over-pressure it then it will ultimately result in poor future hunts, as ducks will start to shun the pond.  That’s why good guides have a half dozen or more ponds that they rotate their hunters among.  I have asked Chris to refer any requests to hunt the pond from guys on the FCS Duck Hunt Rotation to me.

In addition, Chris is concerned about guys letting their friends know about the pond and then them starting to contact his family directly.  If you have friends who might want to hunt have them contact me and I’ll add them to the rotation.  If we have people start knocking on his family’s door asking to hunt it will shut the door on this pond and ruin it for everyone.

Not complying with either of the above will result in removal from the rotation.

Where we hunt will depend on hunting reports that I received from various sources and lake levels.

Costs:

  • The participants (excluding me, if my boat is being used) will split the vehicle and boat gas (the amount depends on the distance traveled and the number of people sharing the gas), boat launch fees (if applicable; no more than $5 each), and toll road fees (if we take any).  I have to replace my boat’s starter battery, tires, etc. more quickly due to taking Rotation members on such trips than I would if I didn’t take Rotation members on such trips; therefore, I am exempt from the above expenses.
  • If we’re not using my boat then I’ll join in with the other participants on splitting the vehicle gas and toll road feeds (if we take any).
  • If we hunt the pond east of Austin, there is a $20/hunter charge.
  • We’ll stop at Whataburger on the way to the lake/pond and might stop for second breakfast or brunch on the way home.

What to Bring:

  • Hunting license, state migratory bird stamp, and federal duck stamp.  If you bought a super combo license it includes your hunting license and migratory bird endorsement but does not include a federal duck stamp.
  • Shotgun.  A 12 gauge piston operated semi-automatic with a 3-inch chamber is recommended.  A plug is required for semi-automatics and pumps capable of holding more than two shells in the magazine while hunting migratory game birds.
  • Camo or dull non-cloth shotgun case.  If we’re hunting from a boat a floating case is recommended.  Cloth cases during duck hunts at ponds tend to get muddy, so I recommend that they be left in the vehicles.
  • Non-lead shotgun shells (HEVI-Steel, Winchester Xpert, or equivalent in 2 shot – the 1550 FPS variant) chambered for 3-inch chambers (if your gun is also chambered for 3 inches) are recommended.   Randy Rowley does not recommend anything smaller than 4 shot.  10 gauges and 3 1/2 inch shells in 3 1/2 inch chambered 12 gauges are overkill for ducks, in his opinion.  Steel shot (if of adequate size) will kill ducks – there is no need for Hevi-shot, Tungsten, Bismuth, etc.  You’ll pay a lot more for those shells and they aren’t needed.  You’ll not need more than three boxes and will probably shoot less than two boxes.
  • Camo or dull blind bag, shell bag, vest, or bandoleer.  If we’re hunting from my boat a floating blind bag is recommended.  If your shell bag is bright (e.g., a red HEB shopping bag) you’ll need to hide it well during duck hunts at ponds.
  • Headlamp or cap light.
  • Camo outer hunting clothes, including cap/hat and a face mask or face paint (face coverings are absolutely essential as oily skin glows in a duck’s eyes).  If rain is predicted, bring rain gear.
  • Waders (absolutely essential except on the pond hunts).  Breathable waders are recommended for warmer hunts.  Neoprene waders are recommended for colder hunts (if you wear 5mm thick neoprene waders on a November or December hunt you might cook yourself).  We don’t put our waders on until we reach the pond, lake, or river (the exception is if you have breathable waders and it’s a cold morning).  If we’re hunting a pond bring boots that you don’t mind getting muddy, but waders will not be required.
  • Bucket, stool, or folding chair for pond hunts.  We’ll hunt from behind a mesh blind, so you won’t be able to see if you sit on the ground.  If we hunt from my boat you’ll not need a bucket, stool, or chair, as my boat has fishing chairs and benches.  However, if we have to hunt from shore (because the cover is too far from shore and my boat will stick out like a sore thumb) we’ll use my boat to ferry us to where we’ll hunt, park it 100 or so yards away, and sit in the cover.  In which case you’ll need a bucket, stool, or chair.
  • Drinks and snacks (optional; drinks are highly recommended).  There are storage compartments in my boat to put your drinks and snacks in.
  • Non-mirrored sunglasses (optional).
  • Bug repellent (optional) for hunts during the early part of the season.
  • A small ice chest or bag to take your ducks home in (if you get any).

I have five life jackets so you won’t need one.

I have extras of many of the items that are listed above (such as waders, floating gun cases, cap lights, etc.) and will happily loan things if you let me know that you would like to borrow something before we leave.  Of course, if you borrow something and break or lose it I will expect reimbursement.

Here is an example of sitting in cover:

I usually start out with a modified choke.  If the ducks are coming into the dekes, I might switch to an improved cylinder choke.  If all we’re getting is shots as they fly past, I might switch to a full choke.  Most modern screw-in chokes are designed for lead and non-lead shot without a change in the pattern density.

I have 127 decoys (53 mallards (four motorized ducks, two quiver ducks, and a wind-activated duck that I only use when it’s windy enough to spin the wings and when it’s too windy to use the motorized duck), 18 redheads, 16 pintails, 14 gadwalls, 13 teal, six canvasbacks, six buffleheads, and a widgeon.  However, I’ll only bring decoys for the types of ducks found on the lake that we’re going to.  For example, I’ve never seen canvasbacks or buffleheads on Somerville, Granger, or Belton, so those will stay in my garage when we go there.  I usually only bring around 60 decoys on the big lakes, due to space limitations.

Being on this rotation is a privilege and is not an FCS membership benefit.  This rotation is a service to FCS members and guests, but I will enforce the below expectations.  I have and will remove people from the rotation for violations of the expectations, which include (this list is not all-inclusive):

  • Hunt in a safe manner, follow my instructions, and abide by the FCS Bylaws Regarding Conduct.
  • Pay for your share of truck and boat gas and and park entrance fees/boat launch fees.
  • Pay for items (that are not yours) that you broke or lost (including decoys that you shot and sank).
  • Help (including helping get the boat back on the trailer).
  • Control your dog (a dog that wants to go play with the decoys or charge the ducks as they are coming in will ruin the hunt).
  • Talk quietly, especially when ducks are coming to the decoys (ducks can hear you and will veer away).
  • Show up.
  • Be on time.
  • Don’t have a pattern of canceling at the last minute.
  • Asking questions that have already been answered in my emails (and you would have known the answers for if you had read my emails).
  • Return my phone calls and/or emails, if I ask a question or ask you to acknowledge something.
  • Don’t contact Chris Campbell directly and attempt to arrange your own hunts at his family’s pond, which is effectively bypassing others on the rotation.
  • Don’t let your friends know about Chris’s family pond.

The following people are on the Self-guided Inland Duck Hunt Rotation for 9/1/20 – 8/31/21 (as stated in How the Rotations Work, the Event Hierarchy applies):

  1. Randy Rowley (I always will have Spot # 1 for hunts from my boat, as I am the boat captain)
  2. Daryl Moczygemba
  3. Binh Chu
  4. Steve Fusco
  5. Edwin Zamora and his minor son
  6. Mike Pozhenko and his minor son
  7. Rob Peterson
  8. Ragan Brock
  9. Wayne Weilnau
  10. Raul Pena
  11. Jeff Cates
  12. Burl Fulenwider
  13. Mario Garza
  14. Ian Daniels
  15. Blake Brosig
  16. Jim McGee
  17. Chris Rowley (Chris and Ryan prefer to go on hunts together)
  18. Ryan Rowley (Ryan and Chris prefer to go on hunts together)
  19. Chris Campbell
  20. Zack Elmer
  21. Kevin McConnell
  22. Don Hebert and his minor son
  23. Zack Tumlinson
  24. Clayton Carrier
  25. Jonathan Fleming
  26. Ken Miller
  27. Mark Kelton
  28. Jeremy Franks
  29. Colin Jackson
  30. Patrick Kelley
  31. Roy Zengerle
  32. James Carney

Let me know at randywrowley@gmail.com (my preference) or 512-922-2484 if you would like to be added to this rotation.  Individuals added after 9/17/20 will be added to the bottom of the list.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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