Monday, October 2, 2023

Where are the ducks? Hood County used to be a waterfowl magnet


Duck hunters new to the county, or those new to the sport, might be surprised to learn what kind of duck action to expect in Hood County. With the Brazos River and Lake Granbury as prominent features, one would assume that the duck hunting is good. But the answer to ‘where are the ducks’ is a bit more complicated than that.

Years ago, Hood County had copious duck populations. Jeff Elder, who now guides duck hunters in Parker County, used to hunt the migratory birds as a teenager in Hood County.

“Because they imprint to crops in an area, they will keep coming back to the same area,” Elder said.

It was something Hood County duck hunters could count on.

Avid hunter Bob Crowell agrees.

“Tolar used to have peanut fields, and peanuts are like cocaine to the ducks,” Crowell said. “You would just wait for them to fly in from the Brazos and shoot them.

“And they all had green heads — mallards!” he added.

As the agriculture of Hood County gradually converted mostly to coastal hay fields, it left the birds with no reason to hang around, moving on to greener pastures and wetlands.


There is one major contributing factor why ducks stopped coming to Hood County in large numbers. The drought of 2010-2015 dried up a lot of habitat. When all the little inlets and creeks were dry, Elder said, “the ducks just kept on flying. Once they stopped coming to Hood County, they never came back.”

With the drought now over, the ducks have returned, maybe not as abundantly as the peanut days, but enough for decent hunting.

One sign that is encouraging for duck numbers is the drawing for public duck hunting sites on the Brazos River/upper Lake Granbury. These sites, mostly a T-post with a label, are hotly sought-after. You can hunt from your boat or erect a blind for the season.

While it is possible to get one of these 15 spots north along the Brazos River, managed by the Brazos River Authority (BRA), it’s highly competitive and depends on sheer luck. Here’s how it works:

On the designated day in August, hunters show up at the BRA offices and enter the drawing. One hunter can bring three other names to put on the permit, along with the $200 entry fee. Each hunter must already have a license and a duck stamp.

How many of the 15 spots will be available depends upon the BRA’s inspection of the sites. Lake levels or nearby development might disqualify a hunt site. In 2021, though, all the sites were in the drawing for the 2021-2022 season. One hundred hunters applied, and only 15 were successful. There must be ducks somewhere on the Brazos or there wouldn’t be that level of competition.


Bob Locke, Granbury resident and Ducks Unlimited development director, was lucky enough to get one of the public spots three years ago.

“We shot 150 ducks that season,” he said.

Now, Locke, family and friends hunt from a leased property on private land.

“This year has been tough. We didn’t get enough rain. Plus duck hunting is usually cold and nasty,” Locke said. “When it’s 80 outside, the ducks don’t come in.”

Elder’s major concern is also whether the ducks are flying at all. He said, “When I look to see if there’s going to be good duck hunting down here, I look at the weather in Kansas — not down here.” The lack of cold fronts in the upper Midwest this season are keeping the ducks complacent, happy to stay where things are just fine.

“They are wearing a down coat, remember. They won’t go anywhere unless it's too cold to stay,” Elder said.


If you are new to duck hunting and want to give it a try whether on public or private land, or if you need a brush-up, here are some pointers.

“Know your gun,” Elder said. “Practice with sporting clays with the type of shot you will be hunting with, keep your head down and don’t fidget. More hunters have busted hunts from not keeping their head down.”

Locke encourages new-to-the-area hunters to make connections with landowners and maintain good contacts with them.

“Of course I want people to get involved with the Granbury chapter of Ducks Unlimited,” he added.

This national organization’s mission, according to its website, is “working to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.” The chapter’s annual banquet is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 24. Keep an eye out on the Granbury chapter Facebook page for details.

Chances are good that it doesn’t matter where the ducks are flying or how many, a duck hunter is going to figure out where the ducks are and go there.

“You go duck hunting once, and you either never go again, or you become a full-blown fanatic,” Elder said.

jay@hcnews | 817-573-7006 ext. 245


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