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Texas Waterfowl Seasons Proposed For Public Comment
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas waterfowlers will have a liberal season with ample hunting opportunity for the ninth consecutive year, based on proposals announced by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after meetings with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The duck season will again be a liberal package that’s the same as last year, consisting of 74 days and a 6-bird bag limit in the North and South Zones and up to 97 days in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit.
Despite the liberal option, biologists still have some concerns for select species of ducks. Scaup population estimates this year are the lowest ever recorded. As a result, the USFWS is considering bag limit restrictions for this popular diving duck. Texas has the biggest scaup harvest in the Central Flyway. Canvasback estimates declined this year and biologists anticipate a shortened season similar to last year’s 39 days. Pintail numbers exhibited rebounds from last year but continue to be well below the long term average. Even though the harvest management plan would allow for a pintail hunting the entire season, the Central Flyway has recommended continuing the 39-day season this year to complete a 3-year evaluation of the season within a season. This is part of the “Hunter’s Choice” assessment that the Central Flyway has been investigating to eliminate the proliferation of more restrictive seasons within the main season, like Texas has had for canvasbacks and pintails. Texas’ own mottled duck was a point of discussion and the USFWS has indicated that they are concerned about declining numbers. They have charged all states and the USFWS to investigate the decline and develop a management plan to address this issue prior to the next regulatory cycle. As a result of this concern, TPWD is recommending a slight modification to the mottled duck bag. The bag limit will be one “dusky duck.” Only one mottled duck or one black duck or one “Mexican-like” duck could be taken daily.
Another change that will affect Texas hunters is restricted framework options for white-fronted geese. This year, the USFWS plans to move from liberal hunting frameworks for this popular species back to what has been described as the “base” regulations. Under this option Texas can select an 86-day/one-bird bag or 72-days and two birds.
How the season structure will unfold is still being discussed, but TPWD has developed a proposal and is seeking public comments prior to presenting recommendations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for final approval on Aug. 25.
According to federal guidelines, the general duck hunting seasons in Texas can only occur between Sept. 24 and Jan. 29. 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 proposes the following dates: youth-only season Oct. 29-30, regular season Nov. 5-27 and Dec. 10-Jan. 29 *. This season format will provide a two-week split giving hunters and ducks a rest, while maximizing opportunity during peak historic migrations. It will also provide hunting opportunities until the end of the framework, something many hunters have requested.
North Zone — TPWD proposes a season structure identical to last year, simply adjusted for the calendar shift. Duck season dates would be Nov. 5-27 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 29, which would give the birds a two-week rest between splits. This format would create an opportunity for a true second split opening day. The youth-only season would run Oct. 29-30.
High Plains Mallard Management Unit — The HPMMU offers one of the longest duck hunting seasons in the nation with up to 97 days. To provide a season that takes advantage of this lengthy opportunity, TPWD is recommending season dates of Oct. 15-16 for the youth-only season and Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 28-Jan. 29 for the regular season. This second split would open on a Friday, giving Panhandle hunters a 3-day weekend to scout and hunt ducks.
Pintail and canvasback seasons would be the same statewide and would open on Dec. 22 and run through the last day of the season (Jan. 29).
The proposed daily bag limit for all ducks is six and may include no more than five mallards (two hens), two redheads, two scaup, two wood ducks, and, in a change from last year, one “dusky duck” (includes mottled duck, black duck or “Mexican-like” ducks). One pintail, and one canvasback would be allowed during the last 39 days in each zone.
As for geese, TPWD is proposing a season similar to last year, but is taking into account restrictions outlined by the USFWS for the white-fronted geese.
Eastern Goose Zone — Nov. 5 through Jan. 15 (White-fronted segment); Nov. 5 through Jan. 29 Canada and “light geese” (snows, blues and Ross’s geese). The daily bag limit is three Canada, two white-fronted and 20 light geese.
Western Goose Zone — TPWD’s recommendation would allow for maximum hunting opportunity by running the season into the first week of February. Dates for the West goose zone are proposed to be Nov. 5 through Feb. 7 with a daily bag limit of three Canada, one white-fronted and 20 light geese.
The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit for Canada and white-fronted geese and no possession limit for “light geese.”
The Light Goose Conservation Order would start at the close of the regular goose seasons and run through March 26 in both zones. This allows relaxed regulations to hunt through various atypical means in order to control light goose overpopulation that has caused damage to Canadian habitat.
Public comment about the waterfowl proposals will be accepted through Aug. 19. Comments should be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to Dave Morrison, TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744. Input may also be made online via the Public Comment link on the TPWD Web site home page.
* Correction, Aug. 2, 2005: The original version of this news release incorrectly stated the South Zone regular season dates as "Nov.5-27 and Dec. 10 and Jan. 29." The correct dates are Nov. 5-27 and Dec. 10-Jan. 29.(Return to corrected item.)
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