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Texas Waterfowlers Can Expect Good Hunting
AUSTIN, Texas — With lots of ducks on the way and plenty of new water to greet them, conditions are shaping up for an above average waterfowl season in Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
“This year's duck season is shaping up to be good,” predicted Dave Morrison, TPWD waterfowl program leader. “Based on reports from Canadian waterfowl biologists in Saskatchewan, this fall has seen the largest numbers of ducks in the last 20 years or so.”
Morrison went on to note that because duck production was very good, there should be a lot of young in the fall flight. “Add to this the fact that a lot of the country north of us has experiences dry conditions many birds will be winging all the way to the Texas coast before they find abundant water,” he said.
The first split of the general duck season in the North and South Zones runs Nov. 4–26 and reopens Dec. 9 through Jan. 28. In the Panhandle’s High Plains Mallard Management Unit, duck season is set for Nov. 3 through Jan. 28.
Hunters should be aware that this is the first year under the Hunter’s Choice bag limit. The daily bag limit for all ducks is now five with the following species and sex restrictions – 2 scaup, 2 redhead, 2 wood duck; only 1 from the following aggregate bag: 1 hen mallard, or 1 pintail, or 1 canvasback, or 1 dusky duck (mottled duck, Mexican like duck, black duck and their hybrids), all other ducks not listed- 5.
The purpose behind Hunter’s choice is to limit harvest on species needing special harvest management consideration, but at the same time maintain hunting opportunity on abundant species, especially drake mallards. Also Hunter’s Choice should minimize season closures and provide an alternative to seasons-within-seasons. Under this bag configuration a variety of combinations are possible so long as only one of the aggregate species is taken in any given day.
Although conditions are pointing toward excellent hunting in some areas of the state, Morrison said there are still places that could use some help from Mother Nature. “Here in Texas we have experienced our fair share of dry conditions, particularly in the East Texas and the Oak/Blackland Prairie regions,” he explained. “Portions of northeast Texas will need a lot of rain to make their duck season.” Recent rainfall has been beneficial to Toledo Bend and Rayburn but we still have a long way to go to have good conditions for Waterfowl hunting in East Texas.”
In stark contrast, the coastal region has had a lot of rainfall since late last summer with reinforcing rains the last week or so. “This has provided a lot of wetlands and things are looking pretty good,” said Morrison. “Add to this the several small cold fronts that have resulted in birds showing up on the coast.”
Elsewhere across the state, Morrison reported South Texas is wet again and will provide good wintering habitat that could draw some birds away from the coast if pressure is constant and unrelenting. Portions of the Panhandle have good water conditions, like areas north of Lubbock.
Goose numbers are up as well, according to Morrison. “This year’s white-fronted goose counts increased by over 40 percent when compared to last year. Young birds equal a good season,” he said. “Snow goose reports are also strong. Select areas like Cape Henrietta Maria and Akiminski Island have indicated juvenile rates as high as 40 percent, which equates to a lot of young birds available for harvest.”
In the Eastern Goose Zone, white-fronted geese may be hunted Nov. 4–Jan. 14; Canada and light geese from Nov. 4–Jan. 28. The daily bag limit is three Canada, two white-fronted and 20 light geese.
In the Western Goose Zone, the season for all geese runs Nov. 4–Feb. 6 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 is set to start at the close of the regular goose seasons and run through March 25 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.
TPWD offers a weekly report of waterfowl hunting conditions across the state throughout the season. The report is posted each Wednesday on the TPWD Web site.
Hunters are reminded to use common sense when cleaning ducks. TPWD and the rest of the country continue to test birds for Avian Influenza. The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Interior are working with states to collect between 75,000 and 100,000 wild bird samples in addition to more than 50,000 environmental tests throughout the United States.
“Even though the high pathogenic avian influenza strain H5N1 has not been detected, low path varieties have been found in several states,” Morrison noted. “A low-pathogenic strain, which produces less disease and mortality in birds than does a high-pathogenic version, poses little to no threat to humans. It is common for mild and low pathogenic strains of bird flu to appear in the United States and other countries and has been around for a long time.”
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center has issued guidance to follow routine precautions when handling wild birds. The Center recommends that people handling wild birds:
- Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or birds found dead.
- Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands with soap and water (or with alcohol-based hand products if the hands are not visibly soiled), and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling or cleaning birds.
- Cook all game meat thoroughly (155 to 165 degrees) to kill disease organisms and parasites.
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