AUSTIN — Hunters heading to the field this fall with hopes to fill their plates with delicious ducks are in luck as biologists predict a good waterfowl season.
“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “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.”
Most of the Gulf Coast and East Texas remains drier than normal, Kraai added. Typically, when there is less water spread out across the landscape it concentrates birds in areas where hunters tend to be waiting and hunting success increases.
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.
Before heading to the field, waterfowl hunters should note the regulatory change for northern pintails. The bag limit for pintails was reduced to one per day from two per day due to a decrease in population.
Goose hunting also kicks off Nov. 2 statewide and runs through Jan. 26, 2020 in the East Zone and Feb. 2, 2020 in the West Zone.
“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.”
Continental goose populations, especially mid-continent snow geese, are declining for the first time in a long time due to four to five consecutive years of this poor gosling survival, Kraai said. The older and wise birds remaining in the flock tend to make for increased frustration with hunters and likely lower success.
White-fronted and small Canada geese tend to be doing much better than their snow goose cousins. Hunters in the panhandle and rolling plains north of Abilene should see similar strong populations and success this winter.
Through the late summer and early fall, Texas saw almost zero cool fronts moving though the breeding grounds to the north, making for a frustrating teal season with a very slow and stretched out migration.
“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 or through the mobile app.
Hunters who want the convenience of purchasing a license online can do so securely from the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site. Access it directly from the department’s website, visit www.txfgsales.com, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.
Hunters can also purchase a license in person at sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248.