Tips for Scouting Wild Game While Creek Fishing

Exploring and fishing small waterways in the Pineywoods is not only fun from an angler’s perspective, but it also provides scouting opportunities for game animals. Many anglers who enjoy blue-lining small streams, also enjoy hunting. Luckily, East Texas offers ample opportunity for both. While walking through a stream, keep an eye out for trail crossings, tracks, and scat. When you find intriguing sign, make a mental note, or better yet, write down your findings in an outdoor journal.

Observant anglers can find game trails near waterways. When you find a prominent trail, write down where you found it in a journal. When hunting season rolls around, you can head to this location for an opportunity to harvest some wild meat. Wild pigs, like this one, can be found near water.
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A perk of being a blue-lining, small-stream angler, is you often discover waterways that are overlooked by others. Even though these waterways may be small, they still usually hold populations of fish, as well as act as travel corridors for other game animals such as pigs, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and ducks. Keep this in mind while you’re out fishing in the numerous creeks in the national forests of East Texas.

One hot summer day, I tramped through a creek in one of the national forests, with a friend, Jose. We were having a very successful day angling for feisty spotted bass and panfish. As we rounded a bend in the creek, we noticed a pronounced game trail coming down the bank, crossing a shallow section of the creek, and running up the opposite bank. Jose and I looked at the animal tracks and saw that wild pigs, deer, and coyotes all used the trail with regularity.

wood duck
Wood ducks frequent many hidden waterways throughout the Pineywoods. Streams that flow near groves of mast producing trees, like oaks, attract wood ducks in the fall.
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Fast forward to the fall, I found myself comfortably positioned in my tree saddle overlooking this same trail. My compound bow rested on my lap and the waning evening light cast rays of yellow and gold over the leaf-covered ground.

I heard the sound of leaves crunching as an animal approached along the trail. A large boar came into view, rooting amongst the leaves. The big boar moseyed along the trail until it was within bow-range. It presented me with a shot and I gratefully harvested the delicious wild meat.

On another occasion, I wandered through a different stream, with a fly rod in hand. As I fished along the waterway, I continuously spooked groups of wood ducks. I made a mental note of the area and noticed an abundance of water oaks lining the banks of the creek. These oaks would provide acorns for the woodies in the late fall.

When waterfowl season eventually rolled around and I knew exactly where to go to harvest a couple of wood ducks for the dinner table. Before daylight broke through the canopy, I was in position along the creek with another buddy, Nick. We could hear the shrill calls of wood ducks all around us. Their piercing whistles bounced through the forest, reverberating off the trunks of trees and palmetto leaves. By the time we left the creek, each of us carried a couple of woodies.

The months of spring and summer are a great time to fish the waters of the Pineywoods of East Texas, but they are also a great time to be scouting for signs of game in anticipation of the upcoming hunting seasons. Keep your eyes open while you’re out exploring Pineywoods streams.

Remember that game animals and migratory game birds are regulated in the same way as fish. Always abide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife game laws and bag limits. Be sure you have taken a Hunter Education course and carry proof of certification with you while in the field. If you plan on hunting waterfowl, you must purchase a Federal Duck Stamp as well as sign up for the Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification at checkout. You will also need to purchase an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit if you plan on hunting public lands managed by the state of Texas.

Robert McConnell

Robert McConnell

Robert H. McConnell was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. It was in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains where he developed an affinity for fishing and the outdoors. At college, Robert pursued a degree in geology, which was one of the only classes that offered frequent field trips to the great outdoors. After graduating, Robert began a career in the oil and gas industry, which brought him to the wilds of northern Pennsylvania. He began fly fishing in earnest after discovering the joys of hiking into remote freestone streams in pursuit of native brook trout. Spring and summer weekends were spent exploring the vast network of streams and rivers along the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. In 2014, Robert and his wife, Ellen, moved from their home in rural Pennsylvania to the bustling city of Houston, Texas, the “Energy Capital of the World,” where they reside today. Robert continues his passion for fly fishing, but instead of chasing native brook trout, he now pursues the multitude of warmwater fish species that live in the surrounding waterways of Houston, Texas. Robert especially enjoys exploring the more remote waterways, including those found in the Pineywoods of East Texas. "Fly Fishing Houston & Southeastern Texas" will be in fly shops and wherever fine books are sold on February 7, 2023.

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