When those birds get here, they'll see habitat conditions much improved from a year ago, when record-setting drought and heat evaporated or damaged wetlands upon which the migratory fowl rely. The combination of strong waterfowl populations - numbers of some popular species are at levels not seen since standardized surveys of nesting grounds began in 1955 - and decent habitat to support them mean the 2012-13 duck and goose seasons have potential to be outstanding. Todd Steele, partner/manager of Thunderbird Hunting Club, a private waterfowl hunting club that leases and manages about 20,000 acres of coastal prairie and wetlands in Jackson and Matagorda counties, and a veteran waterfowler with decades of experience pursuing ducks and geese, offers these tips to hunters looking to improve their odds of success this autumn: Carrying heavy loads of gear (decoys, shotgun, shell bag) even a couple of hundred yards across muddy fields, boggy marsh or the other challenging terrain typical of waterfowling while wearing clunky waders is hard work. [...] is wrestling boats and ATVs off of and onto trailers, enduring cold, wet conditions, and many of the other activities associated with waterfowling. A few rounds of sporting clays over the coming weeks allow a hunter to sharpen the skills - consistent mount, swing and almost subconscious lead calculation - necessary to shoot well. Particular places on a marsh pond, flooded prairie wetland, reservoir or field are more attractive to waterfowl than other spots that look, to human eyes, indistinguishable from the place the birds obviously prefer. The attraction might be a concentration of aquatic vegetation, seeds, grain or other forage; offer protection from wind and rough water and a sense of security; or have some other attribute that draws birds to a specific spot.


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