Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has tinkered slightly with duck seasons dates, but the result is an extra week of hunting for those who have the opportunity to hunt both the North and South zones of the state.
As expected the U.S. Fish and Service has provided states with liberal framework for waterfowl seasons and bag limits. Typically TPWD has set the 74-day season to run concurrent in both zones, but this fall the department opted to stagger the break in the two zones, which could offer some hunters an additional week of hunting.
The first season in the North Zone, located basically above a line stretching from Orange to Del Rio and east of the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, will run Nov. 2 through Dec. 8. The second season will be Dec. 21 through Jan. 26.
The South Zone will be open Nov. 2 through Dec. 1 and reopen Dec. 14 through Jan. 26.
A youth-only weekend will be held Oct. 26-2 in both zones.
The daily bag limit remains six, but one change is that hunters may possess two canvasbacks. The last time Texas ducks hunters could have that many in their bags was in 1964. Hunters in both the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways have had a two-bird limit for canvasbacks the last several seasons, but because the Central Flyway was conducting its Hunter’s Choice bag limit experiment, implementation was delayed.
The increase follows several years of improved flight numbers of canvasbacks. This year’s count was an estimated 787,000 canvasbacks which represents a 4 percent increase from the previous year and a 37 percent increase over the long-term average.
Canvasbacks are not a big part of the harvest in Texas. In 2011, FWS survey records indicate hunters only took about 21,000 of the birds. Canvasbacks can be found on big lakes in East Texas, meaning the opportunity is there for hunters.
Besides canvasbacks the aggregate limit remains the same. Within the six bird bag, hunters may have no more than five mallards, of which only two may be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintail and one mottled, black or Mexican-like duck.
Despite a 6 percent decline in overall North American duck numbers, the population remains strong and 33 percent above the long-term average. Biologists estimate a fall flight of more than 45.6 million ducks.
The season length is determined by guidelines within the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Part of the criteria includes the number of mallards in the fall flight index and the May pond count in the U.S. and Canadian duck breeding grounds. The mallard count was down 2 percent from last year, but still remains well above the number needed for a libertal season at 36 percent above the long-term average.
This year’s pond count was actually up 24 percent.
The season for the High Plains Mallard Management Unit will be Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 1-Jan. 26.
The East Zone light goose and Canada goose season will be Nov. 2-Jan. 26. White-fronted geese may be hunted Nov. 2-Jan. 12. The Light Goose Conservation season runs Jan. 27-March 23.
The West Zone goose season is Nov. 2-Feb. 2 followed by the conservation season starting Feb. 3 through March 23.
As for other hunting regulations for this year, this is either a testament that spell check is not a cure all or that human’s are only human.
Each year TPWD publishes an Outdoor Annual that is a hunters’ reference to rules and regulations. This year there were several errors, a few of which could get hunters in trouble if they go by the book and a couple that are hard to explain, but shouldn’t be an issue.
For example, despite a listing for mule deer and pheasant season in Cass County in Northeast Texas, chances are hunters aren’t going to find either.
What could be more of an issue is the county listing for Anderson County’s fall/winter squirrel season. The booklet has the season closing Feb. 3 when it actually closes on the traditional Sunday ending, Feb. 2.
Additional errors in the booklet include complete wrong season dates in Bexar, Carson and Milam counties. All include last year’s dates.
A complete and correct listing of all hunting seasons by species and counties is available at TPWD’s website, www.tpwd.texas.gov .