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

Backtracking the cold front that brought Texas several inches of rain and temperatures in the low 40s near the end of last week, it passed through the Dakotas about four or five days earlier. The temperature in Fargo was 41 during that time. 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 low 40s and north wind here sure made it feel like winter. 

Waterfowl like riding cold north winds south and then in early spring to ride warm south breezes back north. So, I’m guessing that last week’s wet norther started bringing waterfowl south. At least that’s my hope. Reports from Delta Waterfowl show ducks moved out of North Dakota into South Dakota and are holding there, but temperatures in the 20s there this week could move them.

Hurricane Olga is kicking up in the Gulf but doesn’t look like it will affect Texas. A storm could bring more rain and scatter ducks by giving them more ponds. Right now, it’s a little dry along the coast and East Texas, according to TPWD. That could mean that ducks are more concentrated in wet areas and easier to hunt. Overall, Kevin Kraai, TPWD’s waterfowl program coordinator, says duck habitat is good for most parts of the state.  

The High Plains Mallard Management Area, west of a line from Vernon to Del Rio, is the first area to open on October 26-27. It’ll reopen 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 November 1 – December 1, reopening December 7 – January 26. The South Zone is everything south of the Del Rio to Orange line and opens November 2-December 1; reopening December 14 -January 26. Now put your newspaper aside and recite all that. It’s a little confusing but said to be scientifically and practically based – but possibly designed to perplex outdoor journalists.

And if you’re new to duck hunting, bag limits, though standardized statewide, vary according to species. See page 73 of the 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 open 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 not snows.

Good hunting!

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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