Sprigs! Pintails back in the day

Pintails were the only ducks we really chased back in the day. By “back in the day” I mean the late ’70s and early ’80s along the Gulf Coast. What a wonderful time and place to be a teenager. It helped that our family owned Portland Marine and I had easy access to a variety of boats. Hanging out at Port Aransas, water skiing in the Aransas River alongside the alligators, fishing the back bay, and duck hunting. What a great life! And nothing was better than coming home with Sprig Pintails!

You see, Pintails were only 10 points (on the 100 point system). By comparison, today a bag limit can only include one Pintail. We would try to carefully select only the male Sprigs and often each limit out. That was out in the bays, the marshes held teal, wigeon, shovelers, and gadwall.

Pintails
Pintails and my trusty shotgun on the tailgate of a 1967 F-150

I never saw a mallard in the wild. Pintails were everywhere. For my 18th birthday, my Grandmother produced an oil painting of Pintails coming in.

Coastal Bend

We generally hunted two different areas. When we were really young, we would hunt the marshes south of Bayside, TX. Our parents would drop us off in the dark and we would lug a dozen Flambeau decoys each, along with our Remington 870s, out into the marsh. We wouldn’t even use blinds, just hunker down in the grass. Me and Ross Walton would come home with an assortment of ducks.

Hunting areas around Bayside and Aransas Pass

Occasionally, we would hunt the Mission River were it dumped into the bay. There were lots of little channels that cut through the lowland. Again, we would just find a good spot and hide in the grass. The hunting wasn’t great but there were some geese come through that made it worthwhile.

As I got a bit older into my mid and late teens, we graduated to hunting the bays for Pintails. This required a driver’s license, a boat, and real blinds. Those cold winter mornings, piloting a 16′ Polar Kraft powered by a 20hp Chrysler, are forever imprinted in my memories. One dark morning, a jumping mullet hit Russell Dinkler right in the chest and he about thought he had died as it flopped around in his lap. Man, that was funny!

My favorite spot was in Estes Flats. The pit blind was a fiberglass tank cut in two and buried into the small sand island by Harvey Evans. Harvey actually had two blinds nearby, the pit blind and a traditional blind covered in palm fronds. We would set the decoys and call in Pintails using an Acme Thunderer metal whistle with the cork cut out. I don’t recall who taught me that trick but it was deadly and the whistle made by the metal Acme cut through the wind and carried far. Pintails make a whistling sound, not the common “quack.”

Pintails
Good morning of hunting Estes Flats

After I graduated high school, my parents bought a home in City By The Sea between Rockport and Aransas Pass. This was awesome as it provided quick access into Estes Flats. My brother Charles and I would duck hunt Harvey’s spots using a 14′ Lowe aluminum boat with a 9hp outboard for the short trip from the house across the intracoastal. For the record, I had approval from Harvey.

There were great rafts of redheads in the bay. We never bothered much with them because of their high point value. You could bag seven Pintails for the price of one redhead!

The majority of these hunts were with my trusty Remington 870 12 gauge. That gun took a beating and never once malfunctioned. It was abused to no end. Our “cleaning process” was to remove the barrel and action, blast it all with a water hose inside and out, then drench it with WD-40. I refinished the stock once and the bluing twice. It was not much to look at but it ran flawlessly. Unfortunately, I sold it for $50 when I was broke in college. I would give ten times that amount to get it back.

Mentors

Speaking of Harvey, my duck hunting education was provided by three men: Harvey Evans, Don Kline, and Zach Taylor.

As a kid, Harvey Evans was one of my heroes. You see, my Dad (Glen Coker) was an excellent hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman but he was not into waterfowl. He just wasn’t a big fan of being wet and cold! On the other hand, Harvey lived for duck hunting. He owned black labs, was a renowned field trial champion, and hunted ducks with a Winchester 101 O/U. Harvey was, at that time, the first and only person I knew who owned such a superlative shotgun. I had never even seen an Over/Under outside of a store and here was Harvey carrying one out in the saltwater. His dogs were magnificent to watch in action, retrieving ducks under Harvey’s commands.

He carried that Winchester for 50 years until, near the end of his life, some piece of crap stole it off the front porch of a quail hunting lodge in South Texas while he was eating lunch. They closed down the camp and searched but it was gone forever. A man’s prized possession probably ended up in some pawn shop along the border.

In addition to his hunting skills, Harvey had two other things going for him. First was his terrific wife Barbara. She was a key member of The Retriever Club and could cook up a fantastic duck gumbo. In addition to the dogs, they also raised homing pigeons. Seeing as how I mowed their lawn, I was around Barbara quite a bit and thought the world of her.

Did I mention that Harvey was a salesman for Nabisco and always had boxes of cookies in his trunk? Labs, shotguns, and cookies, you can see why I admired the man.

Golden Retriever
My beloved Tosh

Don Kline was another mentor who taught me a lot about waterfowl. I can’t recall his day job for sure but I think he worked at the Reynolds Metals plant. In any case, he owned a “real” airboat with a Lycoming engine and that was a big deal way back then. He ran a Remington 1100 and was a big proponent of the autoloader. Mr. Kline did some guiding during the winter and set out his blinds and decoys in the Brown & Root flats between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas. He would charge $150 per gun.

Pintails
Pintails on the tailgate

I went out with Mr. Kline a few times and he was the one who taught me the difference between sand and mud when it came to getting a boat stuck. His airboat would settle to the bottom as it came off plane. If it landed in mud, the boat would slide in the slick mud upon takeoff. On the other hand, we were stuck hard if it was a sand bottom. For these instances he had a section of 4″ PVC in the boat. We would lift the bow and push the PVC as far back underneath the boat as we could. He would then gun the engine as I stood outside rocking the boat. Eventually, it would roll on the PVC, break free, I would throw a leg inside and hang on as he got underway to circle back and pick up the PVC pipe!

At night, I would study up on Zack Taylor’s Successful Waterfowling. This book was indispensable to my education. My copy is from 1974 but I see there is a more current version available on Amazon. If you enjoy duck hunting, buy this book.

I would be remiss without a shoutout to Mrs. Mouttet. Her family was from Trinidad and she could make the toughest duck into a delicious meal. In short, she would marinade it for about five days and then Armand would grill it.

ducks
Showing off our ducks at the Mouttets

A bygone era

The Gulf Coast in the 1970s offered duck hunting and fishing the likes of which we may never see again. Ten Sprigs a day and a cooler full of giant trout. Those were the days.

Hunting Dog Training Tip; 20 Weeks Old (5 Months)

Usually, sometime around the 5 month old mark, you are going to start to notice blood on bumpers, or the pup’s teeth missing and bloody gums. Sometimes it happens earlier than 5 months, so be watching for it. At this time, we need to stop the retrieving drills and let their mouths heal. One thing we don’t want to do is give them sore mouth or teach them that retrieving is painful, when we have been trying to make it fun and exciting all this time.

It is at this time we start with our basic obedience training. Sure, the dog has heard the proper verbage the last few months, (HERE, HEAL, SIT, AND NO), but now we are going to put them to use. For us this starts on a 6 foot leash, simply walking the dog beside us. Commanding NO when he tries to drag us, and HERE when he lags behind. To start, we make short walks, stopping and commanding SIT, which usually is us pushing down on the pups rear as we give the command. From the stopped position we command HERE to continue walking. Once the dog is sitting on verbal command, we add a single whistle blast and command SIT. Eventually, the pup catches on that anytime they hear the single whistle blast, they will sit.

After a week or two of this on a leash, you will simply be able to drop the leash while walking. Continue on in the training simply letting them drag the leash commanding them however you want. If they start to fault or get distracted use the leash to guide them the correct way. I am not against shock collars at all, but we strive to train dogs without them. In saying that our basic obedience course lasts 2.5-3 months. We spend that much time with basic obedience, because we believe that if you cannot control your dog verbally at 5-15 feet, you will have no control at 50-100 yards.

One of our females will be coming into heat soon, and this will be a repeat breeding. She is a black 3 year old, and will be bred to our chocolate 4 year old male. Hips, elbows, EIC and CNM cleared on both dogs. We will make the announcement once we have confirmation of the litter.

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Capt. Nathan Beabout

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N&M Sportsman’s Adventures

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Hunting Dog Training Tip-Intro to Gunfire

Now that we have our pups crazy about retrieves both on land and in the water, at 12-15 weeks old, we introduce them to gunfire. By now, they are completely settled into our training routine, familiar with their surroundings and the other dogs. We start off in this phase shooting .22 blanks while they are eating. We do not stand right at their door, we usually start 20-30 yards away from them. We shoot while their head is in the food bowl, watching to make sure they do not flinch or coward down. This is always a very critical stage, we never rush this part.

If a dog cowards we stop immediately. We allow them to finish their food with no other shots, or loud noise. The next day we simply clap or slap two boards together and watch their reaction. If they are good with the boards at a distance, we continue this until we can move directly in front of their door. We’ve seen this last a couple days to about a week or so. But you’re on the puppies time now, do not push them. Once you are slapping two boards together directly in front of them, graduate the next day to .22 gunfire at a distance of 50+ yards. Repeat daily until you can move directly in front of their door. Remember the pup will tell you what the comfortable distance is.

On the other hand, the pup who doesn’t even pick their head out of the bowl with the first day of gunfire, we move to about 10 yards on day two and fire multiple shots.

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Duck Hunting in Seadrift, Texas

NOW  BOOKING  DUCK  HUNTS  FOR  THE  2018-19  SEASON

Along with the anticipation of this year’s daily limit for Pintail increasing to two per day, per hunter, there will be much more wing action available in the back lakes and along the bay front up and down Matagorda Island along the southern portions of Espiritu Santo Bay and San Antonio Bay.  There will be redheads (and lots of ’em!), widgeon, blue and green-wing teal, canvasback, bluebill, gadwall, and even the occasional cinnamon teal and mottled duck.For those passionate about the outdoors, summertime along the Texas Gulf Coast typically means school is out, vacation time is near, and some of the year’s best fishing has yet to come.  And regardless of how true that statement is, for us here at Bay Flats Lodge Resort & Marina the beginning of summer also means it’s time to begin our preparations for the upcoming duck season.  That’s right, even with the hottest part of summer still months away, we’re already strategizing and planning for all that will be required of us in order to provide our guests with yet another satisfying and successful season next winter.

If that’s not enough to satisfy your waterfowl thirst, perhaps our latest addition to this year’s lineup of duck season tactics will entice you.  Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to secure duck hunting privileges on a new piece of inland property, which is located just moments from the lodge and currently holds three freshwater ponds.  We’re diligently working to complete seven more freshwater ponds prior to opening-day, and we look for this property to hold great potential for this year’s hunting guests.

Although not yet finalized, the TPWD “proposed” dates for our Texas south zone of the 2018-19 Duck Season are November 3-25, 2018, and then December 8, 2018 – January 27, 2019.  For a first-class duck hunting experience along the mid-portion of the Texas Gulf Coast, look no further than Bay Flats Lodge Resort & Marina.

Bay Flats Lodge

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Seadrift Cast and Blast!

With temps warming up and the tide dropping fishing is getting back to what we have been use to here on the Middle Coast. Walking knee to thigh deep grass beds throwing Down South Lures soft plastics, we saw limits of trout and reds today.Speckled trout

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Cast and Blast with Capt. Nathan Beabout

Day 1 & 2 of 5, has been decent mornings of duck hunting with lots of air traffic, but weary birds.

Fishing on day 1 was slow with zero trout action, but a few redfish falling for the Down South Lure trick. 

Down South Lures
Down South Lures

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