Southwest of Fort Worth, beautiful Lake Granbury attracts all types of visitors from those who like to fish, cruise on a jet ski, or camp along the 121 miles of shoreline. But it also attracts feathered friends.
It’s all about location, location, location. And waterfowl tend to make Lake Granbury a winter home.
Lake Granbury is in the Central Flyway, the route taken by waterfowl migrating from northern breeding grounds to winter destinations in the south. Not sure if you’ve spotted waterfowl? You probably have. Waterfowl are simply birds that are strong swimmers with waterproof feathers and webbed feet. Think ducks, geese, and swans.
Look no feather
Generally, these feathered friends migrate from the Great Plains of Canada down through the United States and into Mexico, Central, and South America, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. There are plenty of rest stops along the way for water and food. Lake Granbury and the Brazos River are a welcomed stop for many migrating birds before pushing south to the Gulf Coast. And while not all waterfowl make the entire trip, there are some, like the mottled duck, who just stay in Texas, according to TPWD.
These birds are set apart from their other flying friends due to their aquatic habitat needs.
In Texas, there are three main types of waterfowl: diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and geese, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office. According to the Extension Office, mallards, a more commonly known waterfowl, is a dabbling duck because it’s a duck that walks easily on land and feeds from the water’s surface to about 10 inches. Mallards, Teal, Northern Pintails, Canvasbacks, Redheads, American Coots Canvasbacks, American Coots, and geese make Lake Granbury a winter home. Cormorants, gulls, herons, domesticated herons, domesticated and wild ducks, and geese are year-round residents of the reservoir.
Clean, drain, dry
Waterfowl hunting is popular around the reservoir.
The Brazos River Authority allows for waterfowl hunting on the three lakes it owns and operates, Possum Kingdom, Granbury, and Limestone, at designated areas and the restricted adjacent property. The BRA holds an annual drawing at each reservoir in August to allow up to four hunters to share a designated blind area per spot. Since the locations for waterfowl hunting is the only hunting permitted on BRA property, those whose names aren’t selected in the drawing might try their hand hunting on the Brazos River.
Waterfowl hunters can play a key role in helping prevent the spread of invasive species. As hunters travel from location to location, it’s important they remember to clean, drain and dry their boats and equipment, including decoys and other hunting gear, before traveling from lake to lake. Giant salvinia, one of the most problematic aquatic invasive plants in Texas, can double in size and acreage in less than a week, quickly becoming a problem, according to the TPWD.
“Waterfowl hunters can help keep zebra mussels and other invasive species from being moved and harming more lakes by taking a few minutes to remove plants and debris from boats, along with draining water before leaving the lake and allowing everything to dry completely afterward,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management, in a news release. “Zebra mussel larvae may be present in residual water and may attach to and be transported on vegetation moved by boats. Taking just a few minutes for these simple steps can help prevent impacts on ecosystems, infrastructure, and recreation and make a huge difference in our efforts to protect and preserve Texas lakes for current and future generations.”
Change of pace
There are countless great hunting spots along the river and its tributaries. Since the river is a public stream, it belongs to all Texans, and they are free to enjoy a variety of activities within its banks. While hunting is generally allowed in Texas riverbeds, it may be prohibited in some areas by local ordinances or statutes, so it’s best to check with local or county governments to see if there are any restrictions in an area under consideration. It might be helpful to check with the local game warden to learn if it is lawful to hunt in a specific area. You can find your local game warden by clicking here.
Not everyone has seen a strong showing of waterfowl around Lake Granbury this winter. The number of waterfowl in the area has declined since the drought of 2010-2015 affected habitat, according to this recent article in the Hood County News.
There are some out there working to help improve those numbers.
In 2020, a Boy Scout, on the way to becoming an Eagle Scout, made 15 wood duck nesting boxes and installed them throughout the reservoir. These nesting boxes will allow for continued generations to make Lake Granbury their home.
“Wood ducks in Texas are an important aspect of the wildlife community,” according to a TPWD report. “Their uniqueness makes them valuable not only to hunters but also to birdwatchers or people who seldom encounter the exquisite beauty of this “native” Texan. Furthermore, wood duck populations are a barometer of land-use changes. Declines in wood duck numbers can serve as an indicator of loss of essential bottomland hardwood habitat. Because this ecosystem serves as an integral part of the overall landscape, steps need to be taken to minimize further losses. To aid this cause, every effort needs to be taken to ensure that wood ducks remain part of the legacy of wildlife resources in Texas.”
If you happen to live on Lake Granbury and waterfowl have taken to hanging out near your residence and are becoming a nuisance, there are some steps you can take. Don’t feed the ducks or other wildlife, so the waterfowl are encouraged to forage for food elsewhere on the lake.