AUSTIN – Opening day for the teal hunting season arrives this Saturday, Sept. 10 and Texas hunters will have multiple opportunities to harvest birds thanks to improved conditions from recent storms.
“Recent rains have provided a much-needed boost to habitat conditions heading in to opening day, so I am expecting a fair teal season this year for Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, Waterfowl Program Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Things can change, but I hope the forecasts continue to look favorable for more rain in the next few days.”
This year’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) population and habitat survey indicated blue-winged teal numbers increased 19 percent from the 2019 survey – which was the last time the survey was conducted by USFWS, added Kraai. It’s great news to see that they persisted through some extreme drought conditions.
The 16-day statewide early teal season in Texas will run Saturday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 25. The daily bag limit on teal is six, with a possession limit of 18.
Blue-winged teal are the second most abundant duck in North America and by far the most prevalent duck found in Texas during the special early teal season. They primarily breed in the Prairie Pothole Regions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“The heart of their breeding grounds in eastern North and South Dakota saw exceptional moisture that resulted in a substantial increase in shallow water on the landscape this spring, which is another great sign for the 2022 season,” added Kraai. “Blue-winged teal saw some excellent production that will add lots of juvenile birds to the already healthy population that is winging their way south now.”
As for conditions and prospects for teal season around the state, TPWD waterfowl biologists report:
A couple weeks ago things across the entire state were looking very bad for teal season. Although, many places still are looking for that much needed shot of rain, some areas improved substantially. South Texas and small portions of the Texas mid-coast has seen 300-to 500-percent of normal rain fall this past month.
In northeast Texas, a record rain event recently brought some much-needed precipitation after months of stifling heat and drought resulted in low water levels at reservoirs while many ponds and creeks completely dried up. The good news is that low lake levels allowed for grasses and weeds to grow along the exposed shorelines. Many of these plants are important seed producing plants that ducks love, especially teal. The storms raised water levels in many of those lakes a couple feet, flooding some of that vegetation and greatly increasing the amount of habitat available to migrating teal on the landscape.
Like most of Texas, the Texas Panhandle experienced near record heat and drought for a good portion of the summer. Recent timely rains in isolated areas of the region have flooded a good portion of the playa wetlands in the High Plains. This will provide good stopover habitat to migrating teal this September and a place for a few hunters to get in and have a chance to harvest some teal.
The Texas Gulf Coast is one of those places that has been hit or miss. Rainfall is still greatly needed in many places along the coast. The marshes are still very salty and many of the wetlands remain dry. The hunt clubs and leases that are fortunate enough to have access to water to flood rice fields or wetlands will have a good teal season once again.
Kraai would like to remind migratory bird hunters to make sure they are Harvest Information Program (HIP) certified and confirm the HIP questions are answered correctly. The surveys allow biologists to get an accurate sample of hunters so harvest surveys can be delivered to a subsample of hunters later in the year from the USFWS.
Hunters should purchase their new 2022-23 Texas hunting license prior to hitting the field. In addition, teal/waterfowl hunters will also need a migratory game bird endorsement, federal duck stamp and HIP certification. It’s also required by law that hunters have proof of their completion of a hunter education course.
Teal season dates, along with regulations, bag limits and more can be found in this year’s Outdoor Annual. Hunters can also access digital copies of their licenses via the Outdoor Annual and My Texas Hunt Harvest apps.
Anyone hunting on Texas Public Hunting Lands are also required to purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit. Texas has more than one million acres of land that is accessible to the public. More information about these lands and locations can be found on the TPWD website. Hunters using public lands can complete their on-site registration via the My Texas Hunt Harvest app.