Duck hunting close to Houston is like buying and selling real estate. Location matters. That means you need to scout. You can show up on a flooded field or over pond before dawn and throw out bags of dekes. You may get lucky and have a great shoot. Most likely, you will spend a cold morning watching nothing happen.
Scout before your hunt. Scouting works anywhere from a few days before your hunt to the day before. Ducks are extremely mobile, so scouting a week ahead of time does not work. The birds will eat in one area for a couple of days and then move on to another.
More is better with dekes. Duck and geese are social birds. The bigger your spread, the greater your chances of talking the birds down to have a closer look. Carry and set as many as you reasonably can.
Johnny “Dr. Duck” Everhart says bigger is better too. “Bigger decoys can be more effective by showing up better to ducks in the air. Many times, I have had ducks glide over standard size mallard decoys and land among giant Canada goose decoys,” he says in the article “Decoy Basics” at Missouri Outback.
Motion matters too, especially in the late season. A spread of stationary ducks will not do much for them. The incoming flock needs to believe there is activity below. Writing for Outdoor Life, Doug Howlett offers some old tricks that still work. “Clear water will look unnatural to ducks pulling a fly-by, so stir the muck up in your spread by stomping through it and grinding your feet around during slow, flightless periods.”
Hunting over ice-covered water is about the best you can get. Break the ice, set decoys and get ready. The birds will see the difference between ice and open water and come down to the open water to feed. It is recommended that you setup with the wind at your back
Think of Texas waterfowl hunting as chasing wild turkeys over water. You have got to hide. Part of that means matching your camo to the surroundings. The very best Central camo is existing natural vegetation. If you are hunting from a boat, tie reeds and brush from the immediate area to your boat.
“Over time, I have discovered that not all camouflage is created equal. When stepping away from the spread to retrieve vehicles or downed birds, I have observed that older patterns with their blocky shapes appear like a solid blob. However, the newer patterns with contrasting earth tones and natural shapes create Check an open, irregular and realistic effect,” Michael Hungle wrote in Wildfowl.
Be still. Ducks and geese have good eyesight. If they see something they do not like, they move on. Errant motion, even waving your hand, is enough to keep them flying. Do not lift your gun until the birds are in range. They will spook before you can squeeze the trigger.
Arrive Early, Stay Late
Early morning is the best time for duck hunting close to Houston, but it is not the only time. Unless you have a reason to leave the stand, stay put. If it is a long way back to the roost, the birds will hang out > close to the food source. They will come down in singles, pairs and small groups to “top off the tank.”
The colder it is, the more the birds will delay coming in to feed. If the water is iced over, they are going to wait until the sun is up a bit. Ducks do not like being in freezing water any more than you do.