|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2011-10-26                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
Oct. 26, 2011
Duck Season Outlook: No Water, No Fowl
AUSTIN - Texas waterfowlers might have better luck bringing in birds with a divining rod instead of a duck call this hunting season. Wetland habitat conditions throughout waterfowl wintering grounds in Texas have suffered greatly under the drought, and what precious little groceries that remain aren't expected to hold birds for long.
Any rainfall prior to the Nov. 5 waterfowl season opener would be a welcome sight for an anticipated banner migration of ducks, but at this point wildlife biologists feel it's too late to repair the damage this year from the drought.
"It will be a very interesting year to say the least as we have a large number of waterfowl headed our way but very little habitat on the landscape to support them," said Matt Nelson, Central Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project Leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "I suspect the bays will see more activity this season than in years past but with little food production I don't think we will hold many birds for any length of time. We simply don't have the habitat or food. "
Hunting in areas fortunate enough to have retained water and preserved habitat should be excellent during the early part of the season, but may not be sustainable through the winter.
Texas provides a winter home to 90 percent of the Central Flyway's ducks, roughly 10 million birds in an average year. Unfortunately, this year is an exception as extremely wet conditions in the prairie pothole waterfowl breeding grounds in Canada and the Dakotas bolstered production and near record fall flights are headed this way.
"We still have millions of birds to our north, but nowhere at this time for them to winter successfully," said Kevin Kraai, TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader.
The bulk of incoming ducks winter along the Texas coast and rely on a number of wildlife areas; a lot of duck hunters do, too. Here's a quick look at conditions at those traditional hotspots:
Nelson stressed the mid coast Wildlife Management Areas have very little freshwater available and all wetland impoundments and fresh water ponds are dry. Currently the only water on the Justin Hurst WMA and Mad Island WMA are tidal water.
"It's very salty at the moment and these tidal marshes are pretty much void of any submergent vegetation, which our migrating friends are dependent upon," Nelson said.
Guadalupe Delta WMA is in better shape as its marshes have maintained a decent amount of fresh/brackish water throughout the summer and has produced a fair amount of groceries for the ducks.
"Unfortunately it's the only area along the mid-coast at the moment with decent habitat and considering the high number of migrating birds headed our way I predict what submergent vegetation is remaining will be consumed quickly," Nelson predicted. "I don't know where the birds will go but I feel that they won't be in very good shape when we send them back up north."
The upper coast is fairing a little better, but not much, said Jim Sutherlin, TPWD Upper Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project Leader.
"We are 23 inches behind our annual rainfall after ending last year around 13 inches behind," said Sutherlin. "Our soil moisture levels are very low, but we are growing green grass this fall instead of watching grass turn brown as we did in the hot summer. Coastal marsh habitat conditions are dismal, either we have dry marshes, or marshes with very high salinity waters which produce little wildlife benefit, kill plants and deteriorate organic wetland soils."
The brightest spot on the J.D. Murphree WMA is likely Wetland Compartment 5 where Ducks Unlimited installed a new pump this past summer using a NAWCA Grant (North American Wetlands Conservation Act), which gives the WMA the ability to pump water from Big Hill Bayou into this management compartment.
"We have very few submerged aquatic plants, but we do have some impressive stands of millet in a few sites," Sutherlin added. "The rice agriculture and coastal prairie range around us is very dry. We likely will have an abundance of ducks for short periods of time during the hunting season due to the overall duck numbers in this fall migration. I do not expect the birds to stay with us for very long due to low waterfowl food availability and marginal seasonal habitat conditions along the Western Gulf Coast."
Habitat conditions are equally bleak in the High Plains with biologists reporting all playa basins are dry in the Panhandle.
"Our 'rainy season' typically ends around the end of October, thus, it appears this is the card we have been dealt this year," said Kraai.
Goose hunting still could be good around the more permanent water sources such as Rita Blanca Lake near Dalhart, feed lot lakes, effluent lakes near tanneries and beef packing plants, power plant lakes and urban lakes.
"We continue to see a growing population of wintering small Canada geese utilizing urban parks and lakes that make feeding flights to surrounding crop fields each morning and evening," added Kraai. "I expect we will see an increase in these populations once again this year simply because they will have very few options in regards to playa wetlands on the landscape. So, individuals targeting these urban geese in crop lands near Lubbock, Amarillo and Plainview have the potential to see consistent success this winter."
Hunters are reminded that in addition to HIP (Harvest Information Program) certification, they are required to possess a Federal Duck Stamp and a Texas Migratory Game Bird Stamp to hunt ducks, geese and sandhill cranes.
Following is a summary of the Texas late season migratory framework for 2011-12.
High Plains Mallard Management Unit
All species other than "dusky ducks": Oct. 29-30, 2011 and Nov. 4, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012; "Dusky ducks": Nov. 7, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012; Youth-only Season: Oct. 22-23, 2011
North Zone
All species other than "dusky ducks": Nov. 5 - 27, 2011 and Dec. 10, 2011 -- Jan. 29, 2012; "Dusky ducks": Nov. 10 - 27, 2011 and Dec. 10, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012; Youth-only Season: Oct. 29-30, 2011
South Zone
All species other than "dusky ducks": Nov. 5 - 27, 2011 and Dec. 10, 2011 -- Jan. 29, 2012; "Dusky ducks": Nov. 10 - 27 and Dec. 10, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012; Youth-only Season: Oct. 29-30, 2011
The daily bag limit for ducks is six, to include no more than five mallards of which only 2 may be hens; three wood ducks; two scaup; two redheads; two pintails; one canvasback; and one "dusky" duck. Dusky ducks include: mottled ducks, Mexican-like duck, black duck and their hybrids. For all other species not listed, the bag limit is six. The daily bag limit for coots is 15. The daily bag limit for mergansers is five, which may include no more than two hooded mergansers.
Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Western Zone
Light geese: Nov. 5, 2011 - Feb. 5, 2012, daily bag limit is 20 and no possession limit.
Dark geese: Nov. 5, 2011 - Feb. 5, 2012, daily bag limit is five in the aggregate to include no more than one white-fronted goose
Eastern Zone
Light geese: Nov. 5, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012, the daily bag limit for light geese is 20 and no possession limit.
White-fronted geese: Nov. 5, 2011 - Jan. 15, 2012, daily bag limit is two;
Canada geese: Sept. 10-25, 2011 and Nov. 5, 2011 - Jan. 29, 2012, daily bag limit is three.
Light Goose Conservation Order
Eastern Zone
Jan. 30 -- Mar. 25, 2012, no bag or possession limits.
Western Zone
Feb. 6 -- Mar. 25, 2012, no bag or possession limits.
Sandhill Crane
Zone A
Nov. 5, 2011 -- Feb. 5, 2012, daily bag limit is three and possession limit is six.
Zone B
Nov. 25, 2011 -- Feb. 5, 2012, daily bag limit is three and possession limit is six.
Zone C
Dec. 24, 2011 -- Jan. 29, 2012, daily bag limit is two and possession limit is four.
Extended Falconry Season
Ducks, coots, and mergansers:
High Plains Mallard Management Unit
No extended season.
North Duck Zone
Jan. 30 -- Feb. 13, 2012
South Duck Zone
Jan. 30 -- Feb. 13, 2012
For all zones the daily bag limit is three and possession limit is six.

[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Oct. 26, 2011
Opening Day Means Putting Safety in Your Sights
AUSTIN - With hundreds of thousands of Texans getting ready for opening day of the general gun season for white-tailed deer on Nov. 5, it's important to keep safety in your crosshairs.
"It looks like hunting accidents are headed for another record low this year, and we want to keep it that way," says Terry Erwin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's hunter education coordinator. Last year, Texas saw 25 hunting accidents, four of them fatal.
If you were born after Sept. 1, 1971 and this is going to be your first deer season, keep in mind you must have completed a hunter education course or obtained a one-time deferral if you aren't able to get into a course.
"This coming weekend is a good time to get that taken care of," Erwin says. "It's also a good time to make sure all your equipment is up to speed, from your stands to your firearms."
Erwin suggests cleaning your rifle, checking for any mechanical problems and getting it sighted in.
"Beyond that, the week before deer season starts is a good time to go over the basic rules of gun safety, even if you've heard them a jillion times before. The big four are always making sure your rifle is pointed in a safe direction, always treat it like it was loaded, always make sure of your target before you shoot (use binoculars, not your rifle scope) and keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to pull it. You can't call a bullet back, and it always has the right-of-way."
Last year in Texas, four persons died in hunting-related accidents. All four instances involved gunshots - two self-inflicted, two by other hunters.
TPWD's annual Hunting Accident Report for 2010 identifies the factors involved in reported hunting accidents last year. The number one cause involved hunters swinging on game outside a safe zone of fire. One way to stay out of some other hunter's sights is wearing blaze orange clothing or hat.
"Blaze orange is not mandatory in Texas unless you're hunting on public land, but it makes a lot of sense," Erwin says. "Deer cannot see color, but other hunters can."
While firearms safety should be a hunter's top priority, accidents in the field are more likely to occur without a shot being fired." The most unreported of all hunting accidents are falls from elevated hunting blinds or tree stands," Erwin says. "If you're going to be hunting from a tree stand, make sure to use a Tree-stand Manufacturer's Association-approved tree stand and a TMA approved fall restraint device."
While tree stands see a fair amount of use in East Texas, many more hunters used elevated blinds or tripods accessible by ladder.
"Always keep in mind the three-point position when climbing into your blind," he says. "That means having two hands and one foot on the ladder at all times, or two feet and one hand."
Don't try to carry your rifle when you get into or out of an elevated stand and make sure it is unloaded until you are safely seated. "Use a haul line to bring your rifle up once you are safely in your blind, then, unload your firearm and lower it with the haul line before climbing down," Erwin recommends.
Another thing to remember about deer stands, especially permanent blinds is that they make good habitat.
"Always check your blind for stinging insects, snakes and other critters that might have been living in it during the off-season," Erwin suggested.
The general gun season runs through Jan. 1, 2012 in North Texas and Jan. 15, 2012 in South Texas. A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 2-15, 2012. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities, consult the 2011-12 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Roger Dolle, Bastrop State Park site manager, Cell: 512-581-8946; Marcos J. De Jesus, Inland Fisheries biologist, Cell: 512-216-9133, Office: 512-353-0072; Sue Cruz, Vertex Water Features, Cell: 954-977-7863 ]
Oct. 26, 2011
Burned Aeration System at Bastrop State Park Replaced Through Vertex Donation
AUSTIN -- State Parks and Inland Fisheries staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) are applauding donation of a replacement aeration system to improve water quality in Bastrop State Park pond. A previously installed aeration system purchased with TPWD restitution funds was burned by wildfires that scorched most of Bastrop State Park.
The system installed back on Aug. 24 replaced an old system that helped de-stratify the pond for several years before it broke down. Pond de-stratification helps maintain uniform oxygen levels throughout the water column during hot summer months, thus increasing suitable habitat conditions for fish and other aquatic organisms. Before the previous system was able to fully acclimate to the de-stratification cycle, the massive wildfire burned the pump house, along with the newly purchased aeration system, valued at over $5,000.
Learning about the devastation caused by the Texas wildfires and the loss of the aeration system, Vertex Water Features of Pompano Beach, Florida, vendors of the burned system, offered to donate a brand new system as a replacement. The company values conservation efforts and understands the role the aerators play towards this management goal. The donation of this new system should benefit the park and its fish and wildlife for years.
The new system will be an upgraded model, scheduled to be installed immediately at the restored park site. Soon after the acclimation process, this system will serve in enhancing pond habitat, which is home to diverse aquatic wildlife. This exemplifies how generous contributions can have a huge impact on conservation.
News reporters may contact Roger Dolle at the park to arrange a visit to see the aeration system in operation. Call Marcos J. De Jesus for details about biological implications of the aeration system. Call Sue Cruz for information regarding Vertex Water Features.