Fall is my favorite time of year in Texas.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
While autumn officially begins Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, it’s still hot, humid and downright muggy across much of the state. Despite that lingering heat, I’m optimistic that cool fronts are on their way soon.
As far as hunting and fishing pursuits, there’s really no complaints at all.
Dove and teal seasons are under way and there remain fantastic angling pursuits from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast. No matter if you’re a first-timer or die-hard veteran, there’s something for everyone, and the opportunities only increase this month and next.
Archery deer season in Texas begins Sept. 30 and the general firearm season will begin Nov. 4 across the state, running into January. With crossbows now being allowed during the archery-only season, many hunters likely will get a jump on a season they may have had to wait on in the past, which also will add to the excitement within a couple of weeks.
While deer are the prime desire for more than a half-million hunters in the Lone Star State every fall, there is no shortage of other game out there. Dove season already has been a blast for hundreds of thousands of hunters, and cooler weather to the north has a tendency to push more birds down this way, making for some tempting late-season chances. If you’re going to throw archery gear into the back of the pickup, you may as well tote a shotgun along, especially if you’ve got access to water, the ultimate draw for doves.
The lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey have already forced the closures of some public lands and many private lands may have been severely impacted by the feet of rain that fell in August. However, some places weren’t hit quite as bad, though thoughts and prayers are with those who faced the onslaught in full force.
In October, hunters in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit will get a jump on the rest of the state with the kickoff of waterfowl season and will have more days to hunt than other regions this year. Outstanding bird production also will go a long way in having something to quack about.
For wingshooters who enjoy the bursting sound of a covey rise, the end of October also marks the beginning of a four-month time frame to chase after quail. The birds have become an enigma to biologists after a sharp decline in numbers in recent seasons, but filling a bag limit of bobwhites is the least of the reasons to head afield, especially if you delight in watching hunting dogs do their thing.
When it comes to goose and sandhill crane hunting, October is the apex of anticipation for the start of those seasons that begin in November and run for three months. Geese also have caused consternation for biologists as their mass migrations continue to dwindle in notable hot spots, but there still will be opportunities for light and dark geese, while cranes — “ribeyes in the sky” — are always strong in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains.
While hunting is on the minds of most — in addition to college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays — don’t forget about the fishing conditions, which can improve as temperatures cool, especially in regards to bass, crappie and catfish on most bodies of water. Angling during the heat of the summer can be exhausting but hitting the water now and in the coming months allows for fishing all day if you desire.
Heading down to the coast this time of year and into the next couple of months means enjoying cooler early morning wades and mild afternoons filled with plenty of hungry redfish, trout, flounder and drum. If you prefer heading over to the Gulf side, surf fishing can be outstanding with most of the same species available in addition to other targets such as jacks, whiting and even sharks.
While it’s easy to get a little greedy with your own outdoor excursions, this time of year also features youth-only frameworks designed to pass on hunting and fishing pursuits. If you’ve never had the opportunity or never wanted to bring a youngster along before, make this the year you pull the trigger, and you still have plenty of time to prepare. The youth-only waterfowl season in the Rolling Plains and Panhandle is Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 4-5 in the south and north zones, respectively. The other youth-only hunting dates are Oct. 28-29 and Jan. 8-21 for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkeys.
This time specifically is geared toward youngsters – adults can’t legally harvest any of the game listed – but more than anything it’s about the overall experience of a day spent together watching deer, ducks and turkeys and relishing the chance to spend time with those we care about.
Giving the gift of the outdoors may be the best tradition you ever pass on, and doing it this time of year will make that prize even more special.