Avid waterfowl enthusiasts know there’s nothing like having your own place to hunt. Many know too well the hassles of hunting public land. Waiting in lines at the boat ramp (or waking up earlier than anyone else to arrive first) or competing with other hunters to get to publicly known honey holes can make your hunting experience stressful.
Duck hunting has seen a significant increase in popularity in the past decade. In the meantime, Texas land with a water source for sale at an affordable price has grown increasingly scarce. Because of this, when buying land that is conducive to duck hunting, you can be confident that your asset will have strong future investment value and be easily marketed to future buyers who can use that land for continued hunting operations for duck and other game, or as agricultural land.
Finding the ideal duck hunting property in Texas is a matter of knowing what to look for and where, even if it isn’t as obvious as it would be in wetlands-prone states such as Louisiana, Mississippi or Arkansas. We highly recommend studying up on the ideal duck habitat or partnering with an experienced recreational land specialist before setting out on your search to purchase your own duck camp. In the meantime, here are some essential tips for buying duck hunting land in Texas.
Choosing the Right Habitat
Ducks choose a habitat based on a range of variables that should be top of mind for land buyers with dreams of having a duck hole that’s the talk of the town. Primarily, you’ll want to look for land that supports a healthy ecosystem. Some of the key land features you’ll want to have on your property include:
- Water features: Having a nearby water source is a must for duck hunters. An optimal situation would be to find a spot along a flyway corridor that’s close to a river, lake or reservoir, increasing your chances of keeping birds migrating along your general path. But you’ll also want to have a few water features of your own to pull birds off that flight path and into your sites. These features could include a pond or flooded field/timber. Many parts of Texas are far from big water but could still be close to a flyway. In those cases, having even a small stock tank (say, less than an acre in size) could act as a neon billboard for a landing zone.
- Sources of food: If ducks can’t find food on or near your land, whether it be planted crops or natural vegetation, you can bet they won’t hang around long — especially migrating ducks. Ducks flock to planted food sources that we call “hot crops,” which are rich in carbs such as corn, millet, sorghum, milo, rice, etc. It’s valuable to know what species you’ll be targeting in your area and design the habitat accordingly. For example, dabbling ducks such as mallards, pintail and teal love those hot crops and other natural vegetation like sago pondweed or smartweed that’s in shallow water. On the other hand, diving ducks like redheads and scaup are keen to dive further for vegetation and crustaceans, but will also join the feast in some planted areas.
- Coverage: In the same manner that we humans size up a roadside motel, ducks also assess habitats on a safety rating as they fly. Being weary of numerous predators, ducks look for natural coverage if they intend to land and stay a while. As hunters and land buyers, we should be vigilant in designing or purchasing habitats that offer coverage in the form of flooded timber or wetland grasses/brush.
Of course, not all properties are equipped for turnkey hunting. The time and money required to ready a piece of land for waterfowl can add up quickly. That’s why one of the most important questions to ask when buying duck hunting land is whether or not you’re willing and able to put up the funds and sweat equity.
Location, Location, Location
Texas is among the most versatile duck hunting states in the nation. That’s largely because the east coast of the Lone Star state lies between the middle of the Central and Mississippi Flyways, home to a vast percentage of North America’s ducks and geese. The Gulf Coast region, specifically in areas like Garwood and Anahuac near Trinity Bay, are known for some of the best goose and duck hunting in the Central Flyway.
Additionally, the Texas Panhandle lies in the heart of the Playa Lakes region, which depends on seasonal precipitation. When these wetlands experience steady rains, the Panhandle is besieged with enormous sums of waterfowl flocking to these lakes full of grains and invertebrates to feed on.
There are also plenty of waterways throughout the state where the waterfowl are plentiful, including:
- Lakes: Sam Rayburn, Conroe, Toledo Bend, Richland-Chambers and Choke Canyon
- Rivers: Guadalupe, Colorado, Devils, Neches and Sabine
Consider Any Necessary Improvements to the Property
When you’re buying land for recreational use, a turnkey property is typically ideal. But not every property will come equipped with a prime duck habitat. If you prefer a hands-off approach, you’ll want to ensure that your land comes with blinds, pits, water features or areas designed for flooding, and crops/soil that make for a sound habitat. In this case, you’ll want to give a thorough inspection to all the water pumps and levees and assess the condition of blinds.
Most often, you’re going to find properties with plenty of opportunities to improve your hunting grounds how you see fit. So you should be prepared to apply some elbow grease early in the year (summer and fall) to prepare for the season. By following sound conservation practices, you’ll be creating a sanctuary that ducks will want to return to.
- Water features: If your acreage lacks ponds, stock tanks or a larger body of water nearby, you’ll need to create your own water features. These should measure 12” deep (ideal for the widest range of duck species) or less, and should be in an area that you planted earlier in the year with food sources or that supply natural vegetation.
- Food sources: If your property doesn’t support plenty of natural vegetation for ducks, you’ll want to plant specific seeds, grasses and crops native to your location — this is where doing some region-specific research will help. Also, many soils struggle to maintain moisture, so you’ll want to make sure to plant only in areas with soil that will allow the crops to thrive. If you want to plant something like corn specifically to hunt over later in the year, avoid planting like you would for commercial harvesting. Leave more space between stalks to allow ducks to see the light reflection and to let vegetation on the ground absorb light and grow.
- Blinds: The time, money and effort required for constructing blinds can vary greatly depending on the methods you employ. Multiperson pit blinds constructed of material like 7 gauge steel within a dug-out pit, used in both dry fields and flooded areas, have restricted mobility and higher material and construction costs. While pit blinds can cost thousands, single-person layout blinds that are very mobile and good for use in dry areas with vegetation stubble can cost a few hundred or less. Be sure to factor in these costs and time commitments when evaluating a land purchase.
Understand Required Permitting for Hunting Leases and Individuals
Because ducks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, waterfowl hunting is heavily regulated throughout the United States, and rightfully so. As a result, if you’re buying a hunting property in Texas, there are certain guidelines you’ll need to follow.
All hunters over the age of 16 must purchase a federal duck stamp when hunting migratory waterfowl. In addition, all hunters over the age of 17 must purchase the Texas Migratory Game Bird Endorsement. You’ll also need to maintain:
- A Texas hunting license: This is required and can be obtained at most sporting goods stores or from the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) website.
- A Harvest Information Program (HIP) endorsement: Required for all hunters over the age of 16, this endorsement involves a survey to be taken covering prior season harvest records. All Texas duck hunters are required to show proof of their involvement in an HIP.
- Hunter safety education: Every duck hunter in Texas born on or after September 2, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education course. While not required to purchase a hunting license, all hunters still must have proof of certification in their possession while hunting.
- A commercial/hunting lease: A great way to offset monthly carrying costs on your land is to lease out hunting rights to some or all of your land to others for hunting waterfowl and other game. If you plan to lease any part of your land for waterfowl hunting for any consideration, then you will need to purchase one of three types of lease permits — Hunting Lease License, Hunting Cooperative Lease License, or a Wildlife Management Association Area Hunting License. Additional details on steps to purchase, pricing and other permit requirements can be found on TPWD’s website.
The funds generated from the sale of these permits, from taxes on hunting supplies and from funds generated by other conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited (the world’s largest wildlife conservation program) provide the necessary means to enhance the stability of waterfowl populations and habitats across North America.
TexasLand: The Experts in Duck Hunting Land
Now that you’re familiar with some of the things to check before buying duck hunting land, it’s time to find your property with the most ideal duck habitat and/or get to work designing one of your own.
No one knows the land better than the team here at TexasLand. If you are a current land owner with a property you believe to be ideal for waterfowl and are interested in marketing it to buyers or just setting up a hunting lease, contact us to be sure you are getting expert guidance and full-service treatment.
Whether you’re buying or selling, we’re here to help you find your live-water, raw land or hunting ranch. We’re passionate about the Texas hunting and ranching lifestyle, and we’ll help you find your ideal plot, no matter what you plan to do with your land. Contact us today and start the journey toward your new hunting grounds.