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2 funny.. was wondering the same thing.. Just sent out texts to get a sat group together.
 

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Theoretical Ecologist
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This the last report I have dated Dec. 31st...

Ralph,

We had 11 ducks taken this past weekend and a total of 9 groups hunting. They were gadwall and wood ducks. We have only taken 55 ducks off the lake this season.

Have a Wonderful Day!!!!

Bonnie Campisi
Refuge Administrator
Trinity River NWR
P. O. Box 10015
Liberty, TX 77575
(936) 336-9786
(936) 336-9847 fax
 

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Theres no food on champion lake is there??? Just a bunch of cypress trees....

I think IKE got all the grasses....
 

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Reports that I have from hunters on the lake the two weekends before Christmas is that were a lot of birds, but not nearly enough hunters that drew permits were showing up to hunt and keep the birds moving. We lost the majority of our local birds the weekend after Christmas with that big front and it has been slim pickings since, so I'm not surprised to see a poor report for that particular weekend.
 

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Theoretical Ecologist
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Theres no food on champion lake is there??? Just a bunch of cypress trees....

I think IKE got all the grasses....
All the oak tress died out long ago after a levee was constructed leaving only cypress trees which have no food value for ducks. It's "flooded trees", but in no way to be confused with "flooded timber" as we know it, which is basically living oak trees that get flooded after they go dormant in the winter and the draw is all the floating acorns.

The lake was dry by late summer except for the deeper area along the levee. Even most of the larger alligators left for awhile. The hunting area starts 400 yards back from the bank...



As you can see, there was a lot of various vegetation types, some of benefit to ducks, and some not.

The refuge manager was contemplating canceling duck hunting because of no water. Then the Trinity took a shortcut through the lake after heavy rains in north Texas which covered all the vegetation under many feet of floodwater. The manager had to close duck hunting for awhile because of dangerous conditions.



The lake level is back down, but still too high for puddle ducks to be able to feed. On days when ducks are seen on the lake, they are mostly rafted and resting. On Dec. 30th, I observed only one double-crested cormorant and 5 American coots on the south end of the lake..
 

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Remember the Veterans
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Reports that I have from hunters on the lake the two weekends before Christmas is that were a lot of birds, but not nearly enough hunters that drew permits were showing up to hunt and keep the birds moving. We lost the majority of our local birds the weekend after Christmas with that big front and it has been slim pickings since, so I'm not surprised to see a poor report for that particular weekend.
Hunters that got permits and didn't show up should be dis-qualified for next years drawing. I applied, paid my money and did NOT get drawn. Dang shame to waste those permits.
 

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Theoretical Ecologist
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Hunters that got permits and didn't show up should be dis-qualified for next years drawing. I applied, paid my money and did NOT get drawn. Dang shame to waste those permits.
I can sympathize with that, but no one can force you to go hunting on that date. You could be sick, or have a family member in critical condition, or all kinds of things beyond your control.

Also people have other options and when the water's neck deep where it should be calf deep and the hunting sucks worse than government health care, then why not go where you think the hunting will be better?
 

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Hunters that got permits and didn't show up should be dis-qualified for next years drawing. I applied, paid my money and did NOT get drawn. Dang shame to waste those permits.
I tend to agree, but it is difficult to enforce that because they would have tons of names on that list. You also get two weekend, or 4 days, so what if you can only hunt 1? I got drawn this year, but was drawn for the ONLY two consecutive weekends that I knew months in advance I could not hunt. I was not able to switch weekends.

By setting it up as they have, they are asking for this problem to occur. If they wanted to maximize hunting opportunity they could simply allow hunters that were not drawn for a given weekend to wait on standby for a no show like many other refuges do. If they allow 20 parties on the lake, but only 9 permits show up by 5am, allow the first 11 in line on standby to pay a per head fee, launch, and hunt. Since there is a mandatory check in already, it would not take much to make it happen.
 

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Hunters that got permits and didn't show up should be dis-qualified for next years drawing. I applied, paid my money and did NOT get drawn. Dang shame to waste those permits.
From what I understand this is the first time they have had this problem, and Id agree if they let you choose your weekends or trade them out.. Some of us only get 2 weekends off making the luck of the draw a little less likely so even though it's disappointing in not getting chosen it's still fair. My biggest wish is that they would let you bring 3 or 4 adults or turn them in for walk-ins to use if you know you can't make it.
 

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The best thing they could do is to make the permit good for one day only which would dramatically increase the number of people who get to hunt.
Sure... if you'd like to make sure that no one pays to enter the drawing because it isn't worth scouting for one hunt. This is the first year that they had more applicants than slots I believe. They need to increase how many access the property per day, not restrict how many days that folks that actually show up can go.
 

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Theoretical Ecologist
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Sure... if you'd like to make sure that no one pays to enter the drawing because it isn't worth scouting for one hunt.
It's that way at all your WMA's where controlled hunts are conducted. A typical example is they are open Sat., Tue, & Thu. only and no one is allowed to scout prior to a hunt. If they have birds, most hunters do well, and there sure isn't a lack of people coming out to hunt.
 

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It sucks to see that big nice cabin just rotting away too...

Did there used to be oaks in there???? Cuz personally, from what I have seen, its totally useless, except for a few woodduck swats and a mosquito factory....
 

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From what I understand this is the first time they have had this problem
Don't have the stats in front of me, but it's very typical to have people not show up there. Even in years when hunting is pretty good, few can hunt all four days.

There's so many other factors because you apply so early and then the days you get may or may not work out for you. One guy got drawn and then got an invitation to hunt North Dakota. Good thing he didn't turn it down because the refuge had to cancel hunting during that period due to flooding.

The major negative factor this season has been high water and little or no birds most days. Hunting pressure can help or hurt you, but if there were birds working and finding places shallow enough to feed, you could have been the only gun on the lake and you should limit.
 

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It sucks to see that big nice cabin just rotting away too...

Did there used to be oaks in there???? Cuz personally, from what I have seen, its totally useless, except for a few woodduck swats and a mosquito factory....
They hope to restore the cabin and open it to visitors someday.

The area where the lake is now was a natural low in the river floodplain back when the Caddo Indians occupied the site. There were oaks back then but more cypress. Later the attempt to levee it up so it would hold water longer killed off the last of the oaks.

Today it's being managed for it's ecological value as a cypress bottomland. That value has little direct benefit for ducks, but these areas have great value mainly because so much of it has been destroyed in the past. Mixed hardwood bottomlands are the most valuable habitats and would be very costly and would take a hundred years or more to fully restore. Cypress bottomlands would take several hundred years to store, so it's far better to protect as much as we can now.

As for a "mosquito factory", it certainly has the habitat for that when the water gets low. When the flood started there were clouds of mosquito larvae covering half an acre or more and a lot of them made it over the spill way to be someone else's problem.
 

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It's that way at all your WMA's where controlled hunts are conducted. A typical example is they are open Sat., Tue, & Thu. only and no one is allowed to scout prior to a hunt. If they have birds, most hunters do well, and there sure isn't a lack of people coming out to hunt.
Apples and oranges. The WMA's do not do draw hunts, and they do not limit the number of times that one person can hunt the tract. Running the refuge like a WMA would obviously be the most beneficial for hunters, but the refuge staff has a preference for draw hunts. That would be fine if they allowed hunters who aren't drawn to wait on standby for a no show.

Champion does indeed have value for ducks. Besides the invertibrates and what food does exist, cypress bottomlands provide excellent roosting habitat. When it's windy they'll hole up in the cypress for protection, and when it's calm they'll raft on the more open lakes. Having roosting areas that are protected from those winds nearby is vital to the local flooded hardwood bottoms, hence the reason that neighboring tracts of land do far better when Champion actually has a crowd. Additionally, much of the flooded hardwood bottomland in the area is heavily hunted and ducks, particularly mallards and gadwalls, quickly learn to feed primarily at night. They will retreat to the cypress breaks and/or open water to loaf during the day.

Granted a cypress bottom land alone is not going to hold ducks for long, but just because it does not have a major food source does not been that it is not important habitat for them or that it cannot provide good hunting. Coupled with a solid food source nearby, it can produce good hunting in the right conditions. Likewise, a solid food source without suitable resting/roosting habitat nearby is equally useless to waterfowl. I can show you tons of oak flats that flood up nearly every year but will never see more than the occasional duck because there is no roosting area nearby.
 
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