At the end of each year, I always think of all the great times I’ve had outdoors and the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of spending time with. Every year, you could almost “set your watch” for a year outdoors. Starting with fishing for white bass and striper in late winter during spawning, then the spring turkey season and as the water warms around April, fishing for most species begins to warm . Then, in the fall, the hunting seasons resume. For me, outdoor life has been a joyous round of activities, each happening around the same time each year.
But the start of a new year is also a time to anticipate what lies ahead. For many deer hunters, the season ends at the end of the general season on January 2 in northern Texas and January 16 in the southern part of the state. Deer hunting is permitted on ranches managed by TPWD until the end of February. On these ranches, the tags are issued by TPWD to the owner/manager and are used on the deer shot rather than on the hunting license tags. If you have used all of the deer tags on your hunting license, it is still legal to hunt on a TPWD managed ranch and tag your deer with one of the special tags.
Muzzleloader season opens in 90 of our 254 counties from January 3-16, providing hunters with another late-season opportunity to hunt both bucks and does.
Although there is no “official” wild hog hunting season, for many hunters it begins at the end of deer season. Feral hogs are often in the best condition of the year right now after months of ramming corn feeders meant for deer and eating hard-pole crops like pecans and acorns. This is the perfect time to reduce the number of pigs and put tasty wild pork in the freezer.
I really enjoy winter fishing for species such as catfish, crappie, striped bass and white bass. With much milder than normal weather in December, anglers enjoyed an extended fall bite for many species. The truth is that the fishing is often good in the cold months, but the cold temperatures are keeping many anglers out of the water, but that hasn’t been the case in recent weeks with temperatures closer to the end of the season. autumn than from the heart of winter.
I love catching white bass during the spawning period each year which, depending on rainfall, usually starts mid-February to late February. The current causes the white bass to move into the streams above the reservoirs to spawn and the fishing can be hot as the “whites” pile up in the deeper holes around the bends of the streams. At present many of the feeder creeks are low and we who fish them are hoping that heavy rains in late winter will trigger the run. A few friends and I look forward to a lunch of freshly caught, wood-fired white bass fillets every year after a morning of throwing Roadrunner Jigs in slow-moving water. Hopefully we won’t be disappointed this year!
Spring crappie fishing in shallow water during spawning and turkey hunting often go hand in hand for me and both will be here before we know it. Usually around the time I set up my white bass fishing tackle I start “playing” with my turkey calls and sorting out the crappie jigs. I plan to do all my spring turkey hunting with a bow this year. About a month ago I shot a gobbler with my bow at Dale River Ranch and immediately decided to become a spring bow hunter for turkey. There will be the challenge of shooting the bow without scaring the gobbler. I am currently looking for a lightweight retractable awning that installs quickly and easily. It’s much easier to shoot a bow without scaring the game inside the bounds of a blind. My plan is to set up close (but not too close) to the feeders and place a lure about 25 yards away. After arrowing this gobbler this fall at Dale River Ranch, the herd instantly calmed down and I could have easily gotten another shot. With a shotgun, one shot and you’re done.
I have a winter stripper trip planned on Lake Texoma with Striper Express in a few weeks. We plan to use the “thumper” method of using an automatic thumper that raises and lowers a rubber mallet to “hit” the bottom of the boat. Stripers and white basses are also attracted to the sound. With a good sonar you can actually watch the fish clustering under the boat. The longer the thumper bangs, the more fish there are. It is often possible to limit without moving the boat if you are in the right place.
White bass fishing has been excellent at Lake Tawakoni for the past few weeks. I have a trip planned soon with guide Brandon Sargent. He hammered fish holding onto the structure using three-quarter ounce slabs in a green glow pattern.
There’s plenty to do outdoors, even in the dead of winter. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that squirrel season is still on in East Texas and never closes in the rest of the state. I craved a skillet full of smothered squirrel, rice and gravy; need to check the scope on my .22 soon. I just know the oak pine that I want to hunt.
Next week’s column will hopefully give details of a successful fishing trip or squirrel hunt or…. Who knows what! GOOD YEAR!
Contact outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org