Texas Duck Weather

GOOD WEATHER FOR DUCKS

A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) press release transmitted in late October suggested that Texas needed “… some timely cold fronts and moisture this fall … to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer.”

 Shortly after, Texas was hit by a thunderstorm that made this former Army artilleryman think “incoming” had arrived. We got rain and the cold weather.

I don’t know how low the temperature has to be to move ducks out of the prairie potholes and send them flying south, but the cold, north wind here sure made it feel like winter.

Waterfowl like riding north winds south and then in early spring riding warm south breezes back north. So, I’m guessing that the wet norther started bringing waterfowl south. Temperatures in the 20s there probably moved them.

One of my sources, Darrell Barnette, who hunts near Manor, east of Austin, says he has seen hordes of widgeons, but most have avoided his decoys, so far. He added that so far, he hasn’t seen any gadwalls. Sounds like the best is yet to be.

A late hurricane or strong thunderstorm could bring more rain and scatter ducks by giving them more ponds. Right now, it’s still a little dry along the coast and East Texas, according to TPWD. That could mean that ducks are more concentrated in the remaining wet areas and easier to hunt. Overall, Kevin Kraai, TPWD’s waterfowl program coordinator, says duck habitat Is good for most of the state. 

The High Plains Mallard Management Area, west of a line from Vernon to Del Rio, was the first area to open on October 26-27. It reopened on November 1 – January 26. The North Zone is everything east of the Vernon/Del Rio line and north of Highway 90 to IH-10, then to the Louisiana border. That season is now open but will close on December 1, reopening December 7 – January 26. The South Zone is everything south of the Del Rio to Orange line and is currently open until December 1. Then it’ll reopen December 14 -January 26. Now set this aside and recite all that. It’s a little confusing but said to be scientifically and practically based – though possibly designed to perplex outdoor journalists and waterfowl hunters.

And if you’re new to duck hunting, bag limits, though standardized statewide, vary according to species. See page 73 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual for them. New this year is a reduction in the pintail bag limit from two to one. And remember that “dusky ducks” are illegal the first five season days in all zones.

Goose hunters might be disappointed again this year. Poor gosling survival – especially among snow geese — indicates that only 10% of the flocks coming south will be juveniles, which are the easiest to decoy. The seasons opened statewide on November 2. Check Outdoor Annual page 74 for closing dates and bag limits.  

Goose population could resemble last season for white-fronted and lesser Canadas, but fewer snows.

Good hunting!

Written by: Chance Smith
Date Published: January 31, 2020

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