The birds were coming in fast and low. A flock of at least 40 redheads had skirted our decoys once. Now they circled and were banking to make another pass. Just feet above the water they jetted toward us, but at the last minute they hooked behind our blind instead of in front of it.
“Cut’em now, behind the blind!” our guide called, so I popped up and shouldered my gun. Forty targets, flying full speed, at 20 yards makes for an intimidating shot. And when you’re the only shooter and have got a blind full of other hunters watching you, it makes for a lonely shot too.
For a half second I panicked and froze up, but I just before it was too late, I picked out the last drake in the flock and folded him. Then I took a deep breath of relief.
So goes the hunting at Bay Flats Lodge out of Sea Drift, Texas (just north of Corpus Christi). Ducks migrate by the thousands to this area on the Gulf of Mexico, offering late-season waterfowl hunting that can be done in a t-shirt.
I spent a week hunting there with Benelli and Federal just before Christmas and tangled with a variety of duck species from the central flyway. We saw pintails, wigeon, gadwall, and mottled ducks, but the redheads gave us the best shooting by far.
Why was the redhead hunting the best? They decoyed easy, flew hard, and there were literally thousands of them. It wasn’t uncommon to decoy flocks of 50 and see massive strings of birds on the horizon. The first time I saw a big flock get up in the distance, I thought they had to be blackbirds, until the guide corrected me. Also, these birds were fairly predictable because they were wintering (unlike migrators that are here today and gone the next).
While there were plenty of redheads in the area, the daily limit was only two birds per hunter. This cut down on our shooting, but most of the time we took turns when flocks came in and had one hunter shoot at a time. We also tried our best to shoot only drakes. And still, we’d easily shoot our limit each morning with more birds still bombing our decoys.
Luckily, the best part about redhead hunting isn’t actually shooting the ducks. The best part is everything that comes right before it.