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Teal Provide the action on trip to Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge

Although one was not really necessary, it seemed to be a perfectly logical excuse to plan a hunting trip.

My Sigma Chi fraternity alumni members are in the planning stages of their big annual fundraiser and wild game dinner. The group is in need of donated birds and wild game to feed a flock of several hundred members. Also, one of the members, Tim Kelley, recently took over the Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge to headquarter his Waterfowl Outfitters Unlimited, Guide Service (281-461-3460 or 1-888-TX-LODGE).

Eagle Lake is a short drive southwest of Houston and is the self-proclaimed “goose hunting capital of the world.” Tim has over 10,000 acres of rice fields, soybeans, rye grass fields, and flooded wetlands, all prime hunting habitat for ducks and geese. Waterfowl Outfitters also offers hunts for sandhill crane, wild hogs, dove and other upland birds such as ring-necked pheasant and chukar.

It only took a few phone calls to round up a small group of more than willing participants to sacrifice themselves for the cause.

The plan was set. We scheduled the hunt during the brief early teal duck season to coincide with the opening day of the South Zone dove season. Our planned combination teal and dove hunt also included a session of skeet shooting to hone our shotgunning skills.

Kelley welcomed me to the hunting lodge that afternoon and gave me a quick tour. The restored lodge is almost 100 years old and is nestled in a grove of huge, ancient oak trees. Inside, it is roomy with typical high ceilings and has an oversize fireplace. It does have a touch of modern conveniences with a full service kitchen, microwave, and a big screen TV. The lodge has comfortable sleeping quarters for 14 guests and a guest cottage that will sleep 4 additional hunters.

After the rest of our group arrived, we spent some time renewing old friendships and meeting our guides for the next day. With steaks sizzling on the outside grill, we enjoyed the telling of slightly embellished hunting and fishing stories.
The next morning, the irritating alarm clock rang much too early. Early morning conversations were mostly unintelligible. Hunters sipped on emergency doses of black coffee while we tugged on camo and wading gear for the morning hunt.

“Let’s roll, guys,” announced our guide Mike McCutcheon as he walked into the lodge. “It’s a perfect morning out there. Those teal are going to be flying early,”

We followed Guide Mike to a large, flooded grass marsh between Eagle Lake and Columbus. Our group waded the half-mile or so across the flat to a comfortable, 6-man blind in the middle of the pond while Mike set out a formation of decoys. As soon as we settled into the blind, we could see dark shapes zipping over our decoys in the pre-dawn darkness.

Just after shooting time, a small cluster of about six teal came buzzing across our decoy spread at blinding speed. With the signal to “take ‘em!” shotguns blazed. When the shooting was over, two bluewing teal lay floating among the decoys. The morning hunt was off to a good start.

For the next couple of hours, our group got in some hot shooting, not to be confused with hot hitting, on small flocks and single birds decoying into our spread. Near the end of the hunt, one lone teal slipped in on silent wings just above his fake friends. By the time he realized his mistake, he was gaining speed as well as altitude. I got my Model 1100 shouldered and swung out in front of the fast flying little teal. A load of steel cleanly dropped the diminutive duck in the edge of the marsh grass. Mike’s black lab retriever Angel exploded with nervous energy as she bounded across the shallow pond to retrieve my duck.

We did manage to hit enough of the quick little bluewings to slosh out of the marsh only one bird shy of a four-man limit.

After a BBQ lunch in town, we tried our hand at shattering some of the clay targets at the skeet shooting range set up across from the hunting lodge. I must admit that hunting those little straight flying clay birds is easier than hitting those darting, flaring, and dipping little teal.
The only ones that didn’t buy into our hunting scheme were the dove. Dove are a fickle bunch. We hunted a field that afternoon which had been “loaded up” with dove the day before. For reasons known only to the dove, they had moved on to parts unknown to us.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the dove, we all left the Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge with a lot of memories and enough ducks to donate to the Wild Game Dinner.