TPWD: Duck hunting season looks promising
Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists predict a bountiful season for most waterfowl hunting.
“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, TPWD waterfowl program coordinator. “We just need some timely cold fonts and moisture this fall, and I believe many folks will get the opportunity to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer.”
Much of south and east Texas remains drier than normal, Kraai said, which can concentrate bird populations in other areas. This can mean less waiting for hunters and an increased chance of success.
General duck hunting season kicks off in the North Zone (which includes Wichita Falls) Nov. 9 -Dec. 1. It then resumes Dec. 7 through Jan. 26, 2020.
Hunters are reminded that dusky ducks are off limits during the first five days of the season.
The general duck hunting season kicks off in the Texas Panhandle (High Plains Mallard Management Unit) Oct. 26-27 and resumes Nov. 1- Jan. 26, 2020. In the South Zone, duck season runs Nov. 2- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 14- Jan. 26, 2020. Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 9- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 7-Jan. 26, 2020. Hunters are reminded that “dusky ducks” are off limits during the first five days of the season.
Waterfowl hunters should not there is a regulation change for northern pintails. The bag limit was reduced to one per day, down from two per day, due to a decrease in population.
Goose hunting begins in the West Zone Feb. 2, 2020, and does not look as promising as duck season.
“Quite differently from the good duck production, timing of the goose hatch and vegetation green up in the Arctic has been a few weeks off of each other for several years in a row,” said Kraai. “This mismatch once again has resulted in low gosling survival. At best we can say there will be a few more young birds in the flock this year compared to the last couple of years.”
Kraai said continental good populations are on the decline for the first time in a long while due to several consecutive years of poor gosling survival rates.
The older, wiser birds that remain in the flock can make for a frustrating season with likely lower success rates.
There were few cool fronts during the late summer and early fall in Texas leading to a slow, stretched out migration for teal.
“At the end of teal season there were still significant concentrations of blue-winged teal remaining in the Dakotas and Nebraska,” said Kraai. “We will need a change in weather patterns soon to trigger a more pronounced migration before the regular season starts. The birds are there, they just need a good push of cold weather to get them moving soon.”
For more information about migratory game bird hunting regulations, methods and seasons, consult the 2019-2020 Outdoor Annual online.
Hunters can purchase a hunting license online at the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.
Hunters can also purchase a license in person at many sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248.
Claire Kowalick, a senior journalist for the Times Record News, covers local government, military and MSU Texas. If you have a news tip, contact Claire at [email protected]
View CommentsSours: https://www.timesrecordnews.com/story/news/local/2019/10/22/tpwd-duck-hunting-season-looks-promising/4063392002/
When Does Duck Season Start in Texas?
How to plan a perfect Texas duck hunt
In hunting, timing is everything, and never more so than when hunting migratory birds like ducks. Located directly under the Central Flyway – one of the country's most important migratory routes – Texas is blessed with some of the best duck hunting opportunities in North America. Every year, many duck species arrive in the woods and wetlands of Texas in vast numbers, but planning your hunt at just the right time is no small task.
Texas duck hunting zones
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department divides Texas into three duck hunting zones. The High Plains Mallard Management Unit consists of 92 counties in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle, while the South Zone is made up of 54 counties that lie roughly south of Houston and San Antonio. The state's remaining 139 counties comprise the North Zone. Each of these zones has its own distinct hunting season dates.
Texas duck seasons
Hunting seasons in Texas are subject to change from one year to the next. At the time of publication, the regular duck hunting seasons are as follows:
- High Plains Mallard Management Unit: October 28 - 29, and November 3 - January 28
- South Zone: November 4 - 26, and December 9 - January 28
- North Zone: November 11 - 26, and December 2 - January 28
The hunting of "dusky" ducks is not permitted during the first five days of duck hunting season. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department defines a dusky duck as a mottled duck, Mexican-like duck, black duck and their hybrids.
An additional youth-only duck hunting season is also available, typically a few days earlier than the regular season. Only those 15 years of age and under may hunt during youth-only seasons.
Duck hunting permits and requirements
Any hunter must have a valid hunting license to hunt in Texas. This requirement includes youth hunters. A valid Federal Duck Stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification are also required for anyone aged 16 and over to hunt ducks and other game birds. You can receive HIP certification when you purchase your hunting license by answering a few simple questions.
All hunters born on or after September 2, 1971 are required to successfully complete a hunter education training course before hunting in Texas. This course is available either in person or online through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Proof of certification must be on your person while hunting.
Bag limits and regulations
At the time of publication, the daily bag limit for duck hunting is six birds, which includes no more than five mallards (only two of which may be hens), three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, one pintail, two canvasback and one "dusky" duck. Legal hunting hours are one half-hour before sunrise until sunset.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department publishes an annual Waterfowl Digest, which includes a complete guide to all Texas duck hunting seasons, bag limits and other regulations for the current year. This guide is available online and in print form anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
Texas Teal hunting season arrives this Saturday
TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The Texas early teal hunting season starts this Saturday, Sept. 11 and Texas Parks and Wildlife says you can expect a successful season due to habitat conditions being in outstanding shape.
The blue-winged teal are the second most abundant duck in the North American continent and the most prevalent duck found in Texas during the special early teal season. The early teal season in Texas runs from Saturday, Sept. 11 through Sunday, Sept. 26.
The daily bag limit on teal is six, with a possession limit of 18.
The Prairie Pothole Regions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta where the blue-winged teal primarily breed is currently experiencing a significant drought. The result of this will be lower production and fewer juvenile teal coming to Texas this fall.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) reports that blue-winged teal migration is well under way and it is a couple weeks earlier than normal considering the poor wetlands conditions in the breeding ground.
Teal numbers are especially impressive in the rice prairies of the Texas Gulf Coast and the playa wetlands of the Panhandle.
Kevin Krai, Waterfowl Program Leader for TPWD would like to remind migratory bird hunters to make sure that they are Harvest Information Program certified and confirm that the HIP questions are answered correctly.
Hunters should be sure to purchase their 2021-22 Texas hunting license before they begin to hunt. In addition to the Texas hunting license, teal/waterfowl hunters will need a migratory game bird endorsement, federal duck stamp, and HIP certification.
By law, it is also required that hunters have proof of completion of a hunter education course. Anyone hunting on Texas Public Hunting Lands is required to purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit.
More information can be found in this year’s TPWD Outdoor Annual.
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Texas coast holds promise for 2020-21 duck season
The warm weather might put a hiccup in waterfowl migration, but the thermostat will soon point in winter’s direction again and large concentrations of ducks have already amassed in Texas.
“For this weekend’s opener for much of the Gulf Coast region, it just couldn’t possibly be better conditions in respect to bird numbers,” said Kevin Kraai, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s waterfowl program leader. Duck season opens Saturday in the South Zone and next Saturday in the North Zone.
The number of ducks making the trip down the flyway is bolstered by another year of exceptional production in the core area of the U.S. Prairie Pothole region. While some areas of the PPR and prairie Canada were dry, North and South Dakota were extraordinarily wet heading into breeding season.
“Our wetland index was our sixth highest (in the 73-year history of North Dakota’s breeding duck survey). What that does is it attracts a lot of brood pairs, and what you hope for is that it translates into good productivity. Which we think it did, based on our July brood duck survey,” said Michael Szymanski, migratory game bird management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
North Zone: Nov. 14-29 & Dec. 5-Jan. 31.
South Zone: Nov. 7-29, 2020 & Dec. 12-Jan. 31.
“We’re expecting our 13th highest fall flight out of North Dakota, and that’s a combination of the July brood survey and the May breeding duck survey.”
Many young birds, particularly vulnerable to harvest, will be in the flock headed southward.
The Dakotas are a stronghold for blue-winged teal, and Texas hunters reaped the rewards of a production boom with a record-breaking teal season. Those breeding grounds also host many dabblers like gadwalls, shovelers and pintails, and various divers. North Dakota’s breeding duck survey showed an increase or stable counts compared to 2019 in all species except for redheads (down about 12%).
Texas is a major player in pintail harvest. North Dakota’s pintail tally appeared pretty flat, but Szymanski finds optimism in that.
“I was actually pretty excited about that because we had a really high pintail number the year before. And knowing that South Dakota was standing between us and pintails migrating north, it meant that a lot of pintails were going to stop in South Dakota. They’re a little bit more nomadic. They’re going to stop at really good water when they hit it,” Szymanski said.
“Just knowing that a whole bunch of pintails stopped in South Dakota to breed and we still had a number similar to last year’s number bodes really well. It means a lot of pintails were in really good habitat conditions this year for nesting.”
Plenty of decent winter habitat awaits the ducks heading to the Lone Star State. Everywhere except the High Plains, where drought-like conditions have relegated water sources to urban areas. The search for food and water might bypass the region and send a few extra birds toward hunters on the coast.
“For some species like pintails and greenwings, there might be a nice uptick on the Gulf Coast,” Kraai said.
Elsewhere, the table is set for an outstanding duck season. The coast is relatively dry, which will help hunters by concentrating birds at available water. Hunters on inland prairies where water is purposefully pumped are set for a stellar experience.
East and Central Texas received plenty of summer and fall rain. Countless stock ponds continue to attract ducks across an enormous landscape subject to minimal hunting pressure.
“I suspect the Rolling Plains and Oaks and Prairies are going to have a chance for a really good duck season as well,” Kraai said.
“The quality of hunting that’s occurring on that landscape is pretty phenomenal.”
Texas’ duck season on the coast might also be impacted by severe weather events that occurred in Louisiana.
Delta, Laura and Zeta battered Louisiana in an unrelenting hurricane season. The saltwater surge killed off the submerged aquatic vegetation and delta duck potato on which wintering ducks thrive. The barrage of storms ensured that those effects will be felt along most of the state's coast.
“It’s not all lost, but there is absolutely, positively, no doubt that our ability to winter ducks in the coastal marshes of Louisiana has been negatively impacted,” said Larry Reynolds, waterfowl program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Texas was not immune to the surges either, Kraai said, and some concern has been raised about the carrying capacity of the coastal marshes in need of freshening rains.
However, it is likely that some birds from Louisiana will still head to Texas in search of better habitat this year.
“Often times, birds move west. They come to Louisiana and they move west. Poor habitat conditions in Louisiana are going to incentivize ducks to move west at a higher rate,” said Reynolds, adding that birds could also move east, toward Mobile Bay, but that area was hit pretty hard by Zeta as well.
“Texas will benefit from the poorer habitat quality in coastal Louisiana, especially in southwest Louisiana.”
Although this Louisiana duck season is set to be a poor one, hunting seasons on the coastal marshes may benefit in the next few years from the storm surges. Like a wildfire that replenishes the scorched ecosystem in its wake, surges can restore duck habitat by clearing areas of invasive plants.
“In 2005 (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita) and 2008 (Hurricanes Gustav and Ike), we did see a rejuvenation in the coastal marsh, as far as duck habitat is concerned. The storm surge and the salinity impacts set back succession, opened up some habitat that was being closed in and did rejuvenate some of the habitat,” Reynolds said.
Still, for this season, Louisiana hunters do have some reason for optimism. Hunters have better prospects inland in agricultural areas where damaged crops remain underwater in places that would normally be dry.
“It ain’t gonna be fantastic, that’s for sure, but I’m not willing to exit out, not buy a license and attend more Christmas parties,” Reynolds quipped.
Meanwhile, outfitters are abuzz with the possible implications of a closed Canadian border.
Americans usually account for most of the duck harvest in Canada. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hunters and outfitters could not cross the border to pursue waterfowl this year.
Much talk has centered around how this anomaly could affect waterfowl migration and what it means for hunters in the U.S.
It is difficult to quantify.
Migration likely wasn’t impacted, or at least impacts were unable to be determined after just one year. Hunting pressure is less of a driver in the vastness of Canada than it is on the coast of Texas. Besides, in that part of the world, snow and ice often leave birds no choice but to move on, regardless of gunfire.
For hunters in the U.S., there is potential for some extra birds available for harvest to trickle down from north of the border.
Whether those birds were shot before they got to Texas by hunters who took their Canada plans elsewhere, is up in the air.
But the perplexing scenario definitely suits a year like 2020.
Duck season texas
Texas Duck Season Dates 2021 – 22 | North Zone
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Duck2021-2022 Seasons & Regulations
Legal Shooting Hours
From one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
See sunrise and sunset computations.
Dusky (Mottled) Duck Harvest Off-limits First Five Days
Duck hunters in Texas will have to keep an eye peeled for dusky ducks and fingers off the trigger during the first five days of the season again this year, as concern about the mottled duck populations have forced a delay in harvest. A dusky duck is defined as a mottled duck, Mexican-like duck, black duck and their hybrids.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding Texas and Louisiana to a harvest reduction of West Gulf Coast Population of mottled ducks, citing a need for additional conservation based on estimated population declines resulting from major storms in recent years and continued habitat loss.
Due to similarities in appearance, all dusky ducks will be off limits during the first five days of the Regular Season. Dusky ducks can be hunted beginning five days after the start of the Regular Season for the North Zone, South Zone and the High Plains Mallard Management Unit. See table above for legal dusky duck hunting dates.
Youth Only Season
16 years of age or younger. Regular season bag limits apply for all legal species of geese, ducks, mergansers and coots. Dusky ducks are legal during the youth only season. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age. A Federal Ducks Stamp is required for all persons 16 years of age or older.
A person holding a valid Texas falconry permit may take migratory game birds by means of falconry from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset during open seasons listed herein and during the falconry seasons.
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The promised additional days for the Special White-Winged Dove Days are now official.
The enhanced white-winged season was announced months ago, and now the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has released the dates which take the early-season dove season from four days to six.
The Special White-Winged Dove Days will be available to shooters only in the South Zone, and this year will be held From Sept. 3-5 and Sept. 10-12.
The first session of the regular dove season then begins on Sept. 14 and runs through Oct. 31. The late season dates are Dec. 17 through Jan. 21.
Bag limits during the special season are 15 white-winged, mourning and white-tipped doves total, to include no more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. Possession limit is three times the daily limit.
The TPWD also released the dates for white-tailed deer hunting.
Here in the South Zone, the general gun season begins Nov. 6 and runs through Jan. 16.
The Youth-only season is Oct. 30-31, and Jan. 3 through Jan. 16.
The Special Late season runs from Jan. 17-30. Archery white-tailed deer season is Oct. 2 through Nov. 5.
Duck season in the South Zone will run from Nov. 6-28, and from Dec. 11-Jan. 30.
The South Zone fall season for the Rio Grande turkey runs from Nov. 6 through Jan. 16 (Nov. 6-Feb. 27 in Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties).
The spring Rio Grande turkey season runs from March 19-May 1.