AUSTIN – All things considered, this year’s Texas waterfowl hunting season is looking pretty favorable, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Currently, and potentially surprisingly, we are looking pretty good regarding the upcoming waterfowl season,” said Kevin Kraai, TPWD waterfowl program coordinator, “and that is really the entire state. Good rainfall late this summer and even more recently has conditions in the High Plains playas, Rolling Plains and Oak Prairies stock ponds and reservoirs, and even far eastern Texas habitats in better than average conditions.”
The general duck hunting season gets under way the weekend of Oct. 28-29 in the Texas Panhandle (High Plains Mallard Management Unit) and resumes Nov. 3 through Jan. 28, 2018. In the South Zone, duck season runs Nov. 4-26 and resumes Dec. 9 through Jan. 20, 2018. Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 11-26 and resumes Dec. 2 through Jan. 28, 2018. Hunters are reminded that “dusky ducks” are off limits during the first five days of the season.
Goose hunting also kicks off Nov. 4 statewide and runs through Jan. 28, 2018 in the East Zone and Feb. 4, 2018 in the West Zone.
With the Texas gulf coast serving as winter home to 25 percent of the Central Flyway waterfowl population, habitat conditions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey were an obvious concern for waterfowl biologists.
“The Texas coast obviously endured some extreme weather recently and we surprisingly saw decent early teal hunting in many places this past month,” Kraai noted. “Habitat conditions are in fair to very good shape across much of the coast just a few weeks after the storm. Recovery of these habitats has been more rapid than many of us envisioned. Waterfowl foods are abundant and improving by the day.”
Wintering waterfowl supplement their diet on second growth rice crops on the coastal prairies and fortunately, much of this year’s rice crop was harvested just before the storm. It, too, is recovering and starting its second growth, which will be very beneficial to wintering ducks and geese. Planted acres of rice have once again rebounded in the Lower Colorado River drainage now that restrictions have been removed after the filling of the Highland Lakes.
While habitat conditions across the coastal region are much-improved, hunters will be looking to weather forecasts of cold fronts to help push the birds southward heading into the season.
“This scenario of abundant fresh water and foods across most of the state make me confident that Texas duck and goose hunters will have the opportunity to see lots of fowl this winter,” Kraai predicted. “Now we just need Mother Nature to give us a few good cold fronts and make sure our wet spots stay wet.”
Hunters are encouraged to review hunting rules and requirements in the 2017-18 Waterfowl Hunting Digest before heading afield. Printed copies of the digest are available wherever hunting licenses are sold and for download online from the TPWD web site.
For more details on this season’s waterfowl forecast, check out this TPWD video news release.