Anahuac is the third Flyway Series release from GUNNER, which features limited-edition colors that draw inspiration from iconic destinations and honey holes within the four North American flyways. Limited quantities available. A portion of Anahuac-edition products proceeds will be donated to Ducks Unlimited Texas chapter.
Kennel up for the season, sign up to grab the exclusive color while it lasts.
Nestled in the coastal marshland of the Central Flyway lies Anahuac, a long-revered hunting hole and the inspiration behind the third installment of the GUNNER Flyway Series.
Though Chambers County is sparsely populated, generations of hunters since the mid-1800s have flocked to Anahuac in pursuit of the blue-winged teal that the area is famed to host in plenty, plus mottled duck, mallards, snow geese, and other birds migrating for the winter.
Known as the “Land on the Edge of the Water,” Anahuac’s near-impassable wetlands and thick fog blankets provide an area that has a rich history and no shortage of stories. It may be the Alligator Capital of Texas, but to many locals it’s more commonly viewed as a waterfowl haven.
For those of you who haven’t had the chance to enjoy the habitat, we got John Dunaway, friend of GUNNER and frequent flier in Anahuac, to give us a couple tips – and stories too – on what the hunting is actually like in these coastal marsh lands.
“The guys from Oyster Bayou who started hunting Anahuac in the 70’s didn’t have drones or satellite maps, they literally wandered through the marsh, found potholes they liked, and cut ditches with a chainsaw – they would find a little tributary of water and just chainsaw through it. Then they would come back with their mud boats to produce a little channel to their honey holes. I say that to say: Only the locals really know the flyways within the marsh – anyone visiting who doesn’t know the area is bound to get lost or spend a lot of time figuring it out like they did.
When you leave Oyster Bayou Hunting Club in Anahuac where I hunt – my family has been hunting the area for generations, and now I do with my kids – you run down the road with a truck and trailer, get to the property gates, and then ranger in another 20+ minutes south into the marsh, where trucks can’t go. It's not over. Transfer into a mud boat, navigate the ditches of the vast marsh until it finally opens into one of the honey holes. If you don’t know where you are, you’ll never walk there. If you don’t know what ditch you’re going to take, you’ll never manage to hit the right trail before shooting time. They don’t use any poles to mark the way– they just know the little tributaries all over the place that lead to each spot in an otherwise indistinguishable landscape.
I never met my great-grandfather, but my grandmother’s brother started telling me all of these stories about him hunting as a kid in Anahuac with his dad. He told me that in the forties they hunted on this old place called Barrow’s Ranch– it was around a $5 entry fee and they’d give you access to the ranch for the day. He’s telling me this and I’m like ‘holy cow, that’s literally where I’m still hunting.’
A big part of the Ranch was donated to become the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge where I used to public hunt, and now I hunt the other half of the land at the Oyster Bayou Hunting Club.”
“The marsh is full of alligators, but wildly enough, I haven’t had any issues in my 12 years hunting in Anahuac. There was a 2 or 3 year period where a female would set up her nest in Jimmy’s pond and we’d always make sure we didn’t shoot any birds behind us where she was, because we weren’t sending our dogs out there. We always take a look when we get to the pond in the morning– that’s our big thing, shining light across the pond to see if any eyes are present. Hunting day in and day out in the same holes, the guys are quick to know if any gators are trying to hang out. . A big gator that’s going to get in there will make a slide on the bank, and they’re going to find a spot where they like to hang out, especially during that early part of the season.
Since the guides pick up alligator eggs in the off season, we have a good idea of where they’re nesting. It goes back to the local knowledge of the land– having your eyes on the ground and just knowing what’s going on in the area.
Safety’s a huge thing for me with my dog Nixon. One of the first times I came as a guest to hunt in Anahuac, the guys told me I could come if I could bring Nixon. When we started out across this big pond trying to get over to a little island, I started shining my headlight looking around and saw all these eyes glowing red. I was like, “What’s all this? You knew there were alligators in here and you told me to bring my dog?” But they said the big ones stay really far away and they’d never really had any problems with them while hunting. I’ve never been on a hunt where there’s an alligator in the blind, but it happens about once a year and they literally wrestle them out. Now when I go to hunt there, I just shine my headlight around and make sure we’re good to go. ‘Check for critters’ is standard practice.”
“One time, when we were young and dumb, myself and two buddies borrowed my dad’s airboat to hunt the bay. There was a big Blue Norther coming in, and I was like perfect, we’re gonna hunt the backside of it. The birds will have to get off big water for shelter and inshore and their choices will be limited, right where we’ll set up.
We got there and it was still pretty ugly, since the front had not pushed through yet. I think we were 23, still foolish enough to go, so we launched the airboat, ran out across the lake, through the marsh and into open water where we should not have been. It was pretty gnarly and I wasn’t feeling good about it, so we decided to turn back toward the shoreline and put the anchor out, waiting until daylight to decide what to do.
In the midst of that, the boat started to take on water. So I cranked up the boat and hit the gas to run and keep it from sinking, but that boat sank in two seconds. Only the top of the cage was sitting out of the water when she hit bottom, putting our waders full of water, gear adrift and my dog at the time, Savannah, climbing on the cage like a mountain goat. The wind was howling, sending everybody’s gun and blind bags away from the boat in a hurry, but we retrieved all but one. The only two bands I’ve ever shot in my life were in that bag– and mine was the only one we didn’t retrieve. Maybe it was karma for my bad decision to go.”
For more stories like these about Anahuac, stay tuned.
John Dunaway is a merchant mariner by trade, guiding cargo ships through the ins and outs of the Houston Ship Channel. When he's not aboard ships, you can find him outside with his family and his dog Nixon, either hunting or adventuring with a camera in hand. You can learn more about John and his work at www.abstractcomformity.com.
For every Anahuac Kennel or Food Crate that our GUNNER customers purchase, we will be giving a portion of proceeds back to the DU Texas chapter. In addition, when customers choose to donate $1 at checkout to the organization, GUNNER will equally match that donation in honor of the customer's gift.
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