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Dove Zone Shift Tops List of Migratory Bird Proposals
AUSTIN, Texas — Additional white-winged dove hunting opportunity near San Antonio and a proactive alternative to restrictive "seasons within a season" on certain duck species top the list of possible changes to this year’s Texas migratory game bird hunting regulations. The proposals were announced here April 7 in a briefing of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Regulations Committee.
The final options for this fall’s migratory game bird hunting seasons won’t be available until later this summer when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes its annual federal framework. But to give the public time to weigh in on possible changes, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials unveiled proposed options for dove, ducks and geese for 2004-05 they hope will fly.
"For the most part, migratory regulations being proposed are unchanged from last year with the exception of calendar adjustments," explains Dave Morrison, TPWD waterfowl program coordinator. "Other proposed regulations could be altered significantly depending on the federal rule-making process and population surveys yet to be completed."
TPWD is considering a minor extension of the Central and South Dove zone boundary around San Antonio so hunters can take advantage of the large feeding flights of whitewings flying out of San Antonio in early September. By moving the boundary to south loop FM 1604 from the current U.S. Highway 90 to Interstate Highway 10, the dove season in this area could open consistent with the Central Zone (Sept. 1, 2004). However, concern about late-nesting mourning doves remains.
Currently the daily bag limit of 12 is an aggregate of both mourning and white-winged doves.
According to Jay Roberson, TPWD dove program leader, data from nesting studies conducted in the early 1980’s indicate more than 11 percent of young doves produced each year are fledged after Sept.1, and mourning doves nest later in south Texas than in other areas of the state. "Other studies indicate that if either parent is lost before the young are nine days old, survival of the nestlings is reduced," he said. "Long-term breeding population index trends in South Texas have been declining at three times the state rate so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may not allow this extension. However, we are asking for public comment in case they do."
In addition to the zone boundary shift, the proposed season dates and bag limits for mourning dove are:
- North Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 30 with a 15-bird daily bag limit.
- Central Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and Dec. 26-Jan. 4 with a 12-bird daily bag limit.
- South Zone: Sept. 24-Nov. 9 and Dec. 18-Jan. 9 with a 12-bird daily bag limit. In the Special White-winged Dove Area in the south zone, the season would run Sept. 4, 5, 11, 12 then Sept. 24-Nov. 9 and Dec. 18-Jan. 5. During the first two weekends, the bag limit would be 10 in the aggregate, no more than 5 mourning dove or 2 white-tipped dove. The bag limit for the remainder of this season would be the same as the rest of the South Zone.
If some of the dove harvest regulations seem elaborate, consider what waterfowlers have had to digest in recent years. Abbreviated seasons set within the general duck season for certain species like pintails and canvasbacks have kept these prized birds in the game, but necessitated day planner tracking of what’s open on any given outing.
This year, the Central Flyway Council, of which Texas is a member, submitted a recommendation to the Service to alter the bag limit for this coming year.
"We’re calling it the ’Hunter’s Choice’ and the key elements include reducing the daily bag limit from six ducks to five," explained Morrison. "Another important aspect of this concept is that it should eliminate the closed or partially closed seasons on certain species like canvasbacks and pintails that we have experienced in the last few years."
Under the aggregate daily bag for the "Hunter’s Choice," waterfowlers could take only one from the following group: hen mallard, mottled duck, pintail or canvasback. They could take up to two redheads and wood ducks a day. They could also take up to three scaup. For all other legal duck species, such as mallard drakes, teal, gadwall and wigeon, the aggregate bag would be five in any combination.
For rails, gallinule and snipe, TPWD is proposing the following:
- Rail and Gallinule: Sept. 11-26 and Oct. 30-Dec. 22.
- Snipe: Oct. 30-Feb. 13.
- American Woodcock: Dec. 18, 2004-Jan. 31, 2005
For the duck hunting seasons, TPWD is proposing the following:
- Early Teal: Sept. 11-26 if the Service provides for a 16-day season, otherwise, Sept. 18-26.
- High Plains Mallard Management Unit: Youth Only, Oct. 16-17. General Season, Oct. 30-Nov. 1 and Nov. 6-Jan. 30.
- North Zone: Youth Only, Oct. 30-31. General Season, Nov. 13-14 and Nov. 20-Jan. 30.
- South Zone: Youth Only, Oct. 18-19. General Season, Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 6-Jan. 16.
If the Service does not approve the "Hunter’s Choice" option, the proposed aggregate daily bag limit for ducks would be 6, no more than 5 mallards (only 2 hens), 3 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 mottled duck, and 1 pintail and 1 canvasback (restricted season for both pintail and canvasback at this time). The daily bag limit for mergansers would be 5 (only 1 hooded merganser) and the daily bag limit on coots would be 15.
Here’s what’s being proposed for the goose hunting seasons:
- Western Zone: Light geese Oct. 30-Feb. 13 with a daily bag limit of 20. Dark geese Oct. 30-Feb. 13 with a bag limit of 4, no more than 3 Canada and 1 white-fronted goose. The proposed conservation order for light geese would run Feb. 14-March 27.
- Eastern Zone: North Segment light geese Oct. 23-Jan. 23 and South Segment light geese Oct. 23-Jan. 16 with a bag limit of 20 daily. White-fronted geese and Canada geese and brants Oct. 23-Jan. 16 with an aggregate daily bag limit of 3, no more than 2 white-fronted geese. The proposed conservation order for light geese would run Jan. 24-March 27 in the North Segment and Jan. 17-March 27 in the South Segment.
Here’s what’s being proposed for the sandhill crane hunting seasons:
- Zone A: Nov. 6-Feb. 6 with a bag limit of three daily.
- Zone B: Nov. 27-Feb. 6 with a bag limit of three daily.
- Zone C: Dec. 18-Jan. 16 with a bag limit of two daily.
All proposed dates are very tentative and reflect a season structure based on the liberal package. Should another package be called for these dates will be changed drastically.
Public comment about these proposals may be made to Dave Morrison, TPWD, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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