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Published:December 8th, 2007 09:38 EST

Texas Duck Tour: Waterfowl Conservation in Focus

By Chester Moore (Editor)

1397-68957-3.

That’s the number on the leg band attached to the black-bellied whistling duck I shot this morning.

Hunting at Marsh Point with guide Will Beaty, Ducks Unlimited (DU) Southeast Texas regional director Tim Soderquist and DU volunteers Keith Dosch and Roger Simons, I managed to collect some jewelry from an obscure species and kick off the Texas Fish and Game magazine/DU Texas Duck Tour with a bang.

This tour is a seven day trek across seven regions of Texas hunting seven different locations. The idea is to document the amazing waterfowling opportunities available in the Lone Star State and to document the problems facing waterfowl in each region.

“The troubles facing waterfowl are not one size fits all. Certain species have specific habitat needs and problems facing the Upper Coast are different from those facing the Panhandle,” Soderquist said.
 Will Beaty agrees.

The longtime outfitter has seen the coastal prairie and marsh change much since he first started hunting the area.

 “We only have about 2,000 acres of rice in Chambers County and there used to be 10 times that easily. That affects the number of birds we hold and can have an impact on the quality of hunting,” he said.

A lack of rice along the coast may even be partially to blame for the problems with pintails which have declined in recent years. They are leaving Texas later than ever in bad health and DU officials believe this could due to a lack of rice habitat which equals poor diets.
 Another issue on the coast is development which is impacting wetlands in communities from Port Arthur to Port Isabel.

One solution could be found in the unique work of Crown Team Texas (CTC) a development company that has created environmental impact fees for its buyers.

 “We are providing a source of funding for the next 50 years that goes toward restoration and protection of coastal habitat,” said CTC’s Jim Hayes.

The company just purchased 500 acres, developed only 20 acres then donated 350 acres to the Audubon Society.

 “This is an environmental Robin Hood that is taking from those who impact the environment and giving back to the precious natural resources,” Hayes said.

Beaty said such environmentally conscious development will be the key to securing a future for waterfowl and waterfowl habitat along the Texas coast.

 “It’s going to take thinking outside of the box to ensure a bright future for waterfowl and it’s great to see people who are committed like CTC.”

The first stop of the Texas Duck Tour is over and I have already learned about new conservation measures and experienced the type of quality waterfowl hunting the Upper Coast is known for.

There are six more days to go and I look forward to not only the hunting but also seeing what issues are facing ducks and duck hunters in the unique ecological regions of the state.