With duck populations at their highest levels ever — or at least since North America’s annual spring breeding population surveys began in 1955 — it was an easy decision on Thursday in Houston for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to rubber-stamp yet another year of liberal duck season dates and bag limits across the state.
“Waterfowl are doing well,” said Dave Morrison, the small game program director for TPWD. “This is the 20th straight year we’ve been in a liberal framework for waterfowl seasons. That’s unheard of.”
For duck hunters, those in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit of West Texas will see a youth-only season of Oct. 18-19; a regular season of Oct. 25-26 and Oct. 31-Jan. 25; and a “Dusky Duck” (mottled, black, or Mexican-like ducks) season of Nov. 3-Jan. 25.
In the North Zone, the youth-only duck season is Oct. 25-26; the regular season is Nov. 1-Dec. 7 and Dec. 20-Jan. 25; and the “Dusky Duck” season is Nov. 6-Dec. 7 and Dec. 20-Jan. 25. In the South Zone, the youth-only season is Oct. 25-26; the regular season is Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 13-Jan. 25; and the “Dusky” Duck” season is Nov. 6-30 and Dec. 13-Jan. 25.
The Commission once again staggered the first and second splits between the North and South Zones so that hunters willing to travel between the two zones can get an additional week of duck hunting in.
Daily duck bag limits will be a total of six per day in the aggregate, to include no more than five mallards, of which only two may be hens; three wood ducks; three scaup; two redheads; two pintails; one canvasback; and one “dusky duck” (mottled, black or Mexican-like), the latter after the first five days. The bag limit on mergansers is five per day with no more than two being hooded mergansers while the daily bag limit on coots is 15 per day.
As some waterfowlers might note, the only change in bag limits from this season to last is that only one canvasback is allowed each day. Last year, the limit was two canvasbacks per day.
The possession limits for all migratory game birds is three times the daily limit. For ducks, including teal during the early Sept. 13-28 season, the possession limit is 18.
As for goose hunters, the East Zone will see a light goose season of Nov. 1-Jan. 25; a Canada goose season of Nov. 1-Jan. 25; and a white-fronted goose season of Nov. 1-Jan. 11. The daily bag limit for geese in the eastern zone is three Canada geese; two white-fronted geese; and 20 light geese (with no possession limit on the latter).
In the West Zone, the light goose season is Nov. 1-Feb. 1 and the dark goose season is Nov. 1-Feb. 1. The daily bag limit for light geese is 20 (with no possession limit) while the bag limit for dark geese is five with no more than one being a white-fronted goose.
Finally, hunters who enjoy chasing the so-called “Rib-eyes from the Skies” — better known as sandhill cranes — will have a Nov. 1-Feb. 1 season in Zone A; a Nov. 21-Feb. 1 season in Zone B; and a Dec. 20-Jan. 25 season in Zone C. The daily bag limit is three sandhill cranes in Zones A and B and two sandhills in Zone C.