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TPWD Seeks Input on Proposed Waterfowl Seasons
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas waterfowlers will have the same hunting opportunities as last year, based on proposed federal framework that once again provide a standard season, with harvest restrictions on canvasback and pintail. Determining when those opportunities will occur is still up for discussion and consideration.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will finalize the 2004-05 Statewide Migratory Bird Hunting Proclamation later this month, and department waterfowl program staff are seeking input from hunters during the weeks ahead as to how the season should fall.
According to federal guidelines, the general duck hunting seasons in Texas can only occur between Sept. 25, 2004 and Jan. 30, 2005. The state has 74 days to slice and dice to create seasons in the North and South Zones and 98 days in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit. The framework allows for a nine-day early teal season, which is set for Sept. 18-26.
In making its recommendations, TPWD takes into consideration calendar shifts to maximize weekend and holiday hunting opportunity, and factors in years of survey data on bird migration and hunter harvest. Following is a rundown of the TPWD recommendations being considered:
South Zone — TPWD recommends the following dates; youth-only season Oct. 23-24, regular season Oct. 30-Dec. 5 and Dec. 18-Jan. 23. Pintail and canvasback season would be split and include that last weekend of the first split and the entire second split. The dates would be Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 18-Jan.23. This season format will provide a two-week split giving hunters and ducks a rest, while maximizing opportunity during peak historic migrations.
The department recognizes there are other alternatives for South Zone duck hunters. For example, with this year’s nine-day teal season (Sept. 18-26) there is an opportunity to provide additional duck hunting immediately after the close of the September teal season. Hunters would have opportunity not only for abundant bluewings, but also tree ducks and other early migrants. This option could run Sept. 27 — Oct. 3 and Nov. 13 — Jan. 18, with pintails and canvasbacks being legal the last 39 consecutive days.
Dave Morrison, TPWD waterfowl program leader, noted that a season like this does not come without concerns. "During September mottled ducks are still in family groups and vulnerable to the gun," he explained. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concern about mottled ducks and we would give strong consideration to closing the season during that first split, adding to an already complex season structure. Another consideration, if we have a September duck season there will be no split similar to what has been provided for in recent years."
North Zone — TPWD is recommending a November 6-28 and December 11-January 30 season structure, which would give the birds a two-week rest between splits. As opposed to recent seasons, which offered only a five-day break at the beginning, this format would create an opportunity for a true second split opening day. The youth-only season would run Oct. 30-31 and pintail and canvasback season would run Dec. 23-Jan. 30.
If a season were structured similar to those in recent years, providing the maximum number of days at the end of the framework, it would occur Nov. 13-14 and Nov. 20 — Jan. 30, with pintail and canvasback days staying at Dec. 23 — Jan. 30.
Both options would provide hunting opportunity to the end of frameworks proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
High Plains Mallard Management Unit — The HPMMU offers one of the longest duck hunting seasons in the nation with 98 days. To provide a season that takes advantage of this lengthy opportunity, TPWD is recommending season dates of Oct. 23-24 for the youth-only season and Sept. 27 — Oct. 3 and Oct. 30 — Jan. 26. The pintail and canvasback season would run Dec. 18-Jan. 25.
"We tried the early opener in the High Plains before and it was well received," said Morrison.
Another alternative for the HPMMU would be a straight season to run Oct. 22 — Jan. 25, again with the pintail and canvasback season running from Dec. 18 — Jan. 25.
The proposed daily bag limit for all ducks is six and may include no more than five mallards (two hens), two redheads, three scaup, two wood ducks, and one mottled duck. One pintail, and one canvasback would be allowed during the 39-day season set in each zone.
As for geese, TPWD officials are hoping to simplify the season structure this year by eliminating the north and south segments in the East Zone and overlap with the duck season as much as possible.
Eastern Goose Zone — Nov. 6 — Jan. 30 with a daily bag limit of 3 Canada, 2 white-fronted and 20 light geese.
"White-fronted estimated based on September counts are declining and moving the season back a week will allow more light geese to come down and serve as a buffer," said Morrison.
Western Goose Zone — TPWD’s recommendation would set the goose season concurrent with the opening day of duck season, Oct. 30 — Feb. 1, with a daily bag limit of 3 Canada, 1 white-fronted and 20 light geese.
The Light Goose Conservation Order would start at the close of the regular goose seasons and run through March 27.
Public comment on the waterfowl proposals should be directed to Dave Morrison, TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Input may also be made online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ by following the Public Comment link.
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