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Texas Sportsman
State-Line Geese
For your consideration: a guide to some of the greatest goose hunting options between Houston and the Louisiana border! (November 2007)

Photo by Cathy & Gordon Illg

The stretch of coastal marsh and prairie between Houston and Orange along the Interstate 10 corridor offers some of the best hunting for geese in the Lone Star State this month. Typically, the hunting here heats up as the season goes on, but over the last couple of years, some of the best action has been seen early on.

"Last year in particular we had more geese in large concentrations early than we have ever had," said Shane Chesson of Drake Plantation Outfitters, (409) 284-8616. "We had lots of snows and specks, which was more than welcome to us."

Hunters looking for consistent action will find that a spread combining duck and goose decoys is tops, Chesson said. "A lot of times early in November we're still fairly dry," he noted, "so if you have a flooded field you're going to have ducks and geese in it. We like to set up huge spreads with around 300 to 400 decoys, half of which are ducks and the other half a combination of light and dark goose decoys."

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It's also important for the decoys to represent various age-classes, as geese can be very cliquish at this time of year. "What's going to happen more than likely is you'll have the best success by having your spread with mature and young decoys," Chesson offered, "because the geese come in family groups a lot, and they are not all the same size."

Calling is an important component of the hunt, but hunters should let the birds dictate how much to vocalize. Noted Chesson, "You need to pay attention to what the birds are doing: If they are going by you and not turning, change the call up, or get louder; if they are locked in real good, you might want to keep with the program you're on. You'll have to learn to judge yourself what is best for out in the field."

Specklebellies doubtless are the birds easiest to call on the prairie, but a lot of hunters pack it in too early and so miss the opportunity. "Specks are a bonus for a lot of the hunters duck hunting, because they will come in even to a duck spread if you call them," said guide Ryan Warhola. "But a lot of duck hunters will get out of their blinds too early, and a lot of times the specks will fly right at first light, or come in around 9 a.m."

Warhola reported that last year's speck hunting was unbelievable, noting that a large number of birds plus a larger proportion of young birds equaled prime opportunity. "If we get a lot of young birds again, the hunting should be fabulous," he said. "You can only take two specklebellies, but they are really what make the hunt worth it for me sometimes. They are such a fun bird to hunt -- and they are by far the tastiest of the geese."

The best specklebelly hunting is on the prairie between Devers and Winnie and along state Highway 82 south toward High Island. Snow geese, however, are concentrated all over the region, with some of their favorite haunts right off of Interstate 10. Though some hunters shy away from leasing these fields, these tracts can be excellent for hunting.

"The snows came in heavy last year really early, and they stayed thick throughout the season," said Jason Phillips of Houston. "The trick was (and usually is) to separate the young birds from the bunch, because they are the easiest to take out."

Phillips hunts the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, focusing mainly on snows, which he believes to be a great option for refuge hunters. "If you have the patience, the physical ability to bring a lot of decoys, and the determination, you can score big on snows," he said.

The technique of setting up a huge spread of shells and rags right on the edge of the marsh and using the waving black and white flags is Phillips' favorite. "Once we see birds up and moving, we will be waving flags like crazy," he said. "Black and white flags used in unison have great contrast and grab the birds' attention. I was told to do this years ago, but thought the people were crazy; now I always flag.

"The key for flagging is to be consistent, and shut it down once the birds get close enough to really see your spread. What you want to do is grab their attention and then lure them in either with the spread itself or by calling."

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