Dave Cox, Palmetto Guide Service

Sitting in the blind during the pre-dawn morning of opening day of the 2003-2004 duck season, I was hoping that the chill in the air that brought a north wind had not pushed the ducks out of the Trinity River bottoms. For several days before the November 8th opener, upper Lake Livingston was holding thousands of ducks. I kept my optimism to myself for fear of fueling my opening day clients with higher expectations than could be realized. "There has been a lot of ducks in the area, but things could change" as I spoke to my clients. Now with the orange amber glow of a new day on the eastern horizon, I gave the "lock and load" command. "Let's get focused, get mad at the ducks, take no prisoners" I said. The minutes slowly ticked away to legal shooting time with a dead calm. Suddenly, the sound of wings blew through our spread. "Take-em boys!" Fire erupted from barrels, ducks spooled and splashed, the new season had begun.

Teal, Gadwall, Shovelers, singles, pairs and small family groups locked wings and turned into the wind to set down in our huge decoy spread. More ducks fell, Dusty made the long retrieves. I made the short ones and within a couple of hours, shot gun barrels cooled down and we admired our opening day limit of Trinity River bottom ducks. Finally, I breathed easier with smiling clients. Scouting, blind brushing, concealment, calling and decoy placement had all come together for another great opening day.

Expectations are high this year for another great season as Ducks Unlimited reports central flyway duck numbers are up due to late season Spring rains in Southern Saskatchewan. An astounding 162% increase from 3.5 million birds in 2002 to 9.3 million this year. Mallards up 74%. Gadwalls up 199%. Blue-winged Teal up 188% and Canvasbacks up 166%. Last Spring there were an estimated 1 million breeding Pintail in the central flyway. Again this year, Pintails may only be taken the last 39 days of the season. North zone hunters will again get the advantage of hunting ducks a seek later when more late migrating Mallards will be abundant until the season ends January 25, 2004.

If our opening day hunt is any reflection on what is to come, its going to be another great year of duck hunting on the Trinity River bottoms.

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Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide.  This article has previously appeared in that publication.

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