Luke Clayton: Outdoor activities for the new year
(Editor’s note: Because of the holiday schedule, Luke’s column will run in Wednesday’s edition this week, and will return to the weekend edition Jan. 9.)
At the close of each year, I always reflect upon all the great times I enjoyed in the outdoors and wonderful people I had the privilege of spending time with. Each year, one could almost “set his watch” to the timing for a year in the outdoors. Beginning with late winter white bass and striper fishing during the spawn, then spring turkey season and when the water warms around April, fishing for most species begins to heat up. Then in Fall the hunting seasons once again kick in. Life in the outdoors for me has been a glorious merry go round of activities, each of which occur on a yearly basis at about the same time.
But the beginning of a new year is also a time to look forward to what’s ahead. For many deer hunters, the season ends at the close of the general season Jan. 2 in north Texas and Jan. 16 in the southern part of the state. Deer hunting is allowed on TPWD managed ranches through the end of February. On these ranches, tags are issued by TPWD to the landowner/manager and are used on harvested deer rather than the tags on one’s hunting license. If you’ve used all the deer tags on your hunting license, it’s still legal to hunt a TPWD managed ranch and tag your deer with one of special tags.
Muzzleloader season opens in 90 of our 254 counties from Jan. 3-16 and allows hunters yet another late season opportunity to hunt both bucks and doe.
While there is no “official” season for hunting wild hogs, for many hunters it begins at the close of deer season. Wild hogs are often in the best condition of the year right now after months of hitting corn feeders intended for deer and eating hard mast crops such as pecans and acorns. Now is a great time to reduce hog numbers and put some great tasting wild pork in the freezer.
I thoroughly enjoy winter fishing for species such as catfish, crappie, striper and white bass. With the much milder than normal weather in December, fishermen have enjoyed an extended fall bite for many species. The truth is, fishing is often good in the cold weather months but cold temperatures keep many anglers off the water, but not so the past few weeks with temperatures more like late fall than the dead of winter.
I love catching white bass during the spawning run each year which, depending upon rainfall, usually kicks off in mid to late February. Current causes white bass to move into the creeks above reservoirs to spawn and fishing can be red hot when the “whites” stack up in the deeper holes around creek bends. At present time, many of the feeder creeks are low and we that fish them are hoping for some heavy rains during late winter to trigger the spawning run. Some friends and I look forward to enjoying a lunch of freshly caught white bass fillets, cooked over a wood fire each year after a morning of tossing Roadrunner Jigs into slow moving water. Hopefully we won’t be disappointed this year!
Spring shallow water crappie fishing during the spawn and turkey hunting often go hand in hand for me and both activities will be here before we know it. Usually about the time I put my “creek fishing” white bass tackle up I begin “fiddling” with my turkey calls and sorting out crappie jigs. I’m contemplating doing all my spring turkey hunting with a bow this year. A month or so ago, I shot a gobbler with my bow up on the Dale River Ranch and immediately decided to become a spring bow hunter for turkey. There will be the challenge of drawing the bow without spooking the gobbler. I’m currently looking for a lightweight pop up blind that sets up quickly and easily. It’s much easier to draw a bow without spooking game inside the confines of a blind. My plan is to set up close (but not too close) to feeders and place a decoy out about 25 yards. After I arrowed that gobbler this fall on the Dale River Ranch, the flock instantly settled down and I could have easily got another shot off. With a shotgun, one shot and you’re done.
I’ve got a winter striper trip planned on Lake Texoma with Striper Express in a couple weeks. We plan to use the “thumper” method of using an automatic thumper that raises and lowers a rubber mallet to “thump” the bottom of the boat. Stripers and white bass as well are attracted to the sound. With good sonar, you can actually watch the fish concentrate under the boat. The longer the thumper thumps, the more fish show up. It’s often possible to limit out without moving the boat if you are in the right place.
Fishing for white bass has been excellent at Lake Tawakoni the past couple weeks. I have a trip planned soon with guide Brandon Sargent. He has been hammering fish holding on structure using three quarter ounce slabs in green glow pattern.
There is a great deal to do in the outdoors, even in the dead of winter. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that squirrel season is still underway in east Texas and it never closes across the remainder of the state. I have been craving a skillet full of smothered squirrel, rice and gravy; need to check the scope on my .22 soon. I know just the pin oak flat I want to hunt.
Next week’s column will hopefully give details of a successful fishing trip or squirrel hunt or…. Who knows what! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org.