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Waterfowl prospects linked to cold fronts

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Waterfowl hunters hoping to bag some ducks this season are in luck, as the state’s waterfowl chief predicts a good outlook for the upcoming months.

“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“We just need some timely cold fonts and moisture this fall, and I believe many folks will get the opportunity to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer,” he said.

In the state’s South Zone, duck season runs from Saturday, Nov. 2- Dec. 1, resumes that day and runs to Jan. 26.

Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 9 and runs to Dec. 1, takes a break until Dec. 7 and continues to Jan. 26.

Hunters should remember that “dusky ducks” are off limits during the first five days of the season.

Before heading to the fields, waterfowl hunters also should note the regulatory change for Northern Pintails. The bag limit for pintails was reduced to one per day from two per day due to a decrease in population.

Goose hunting also kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 2, statewide and runs through Jan. 26 in the East Zone and Feb. 2 in the West Zone.

“Quite differently from the good duck production, timing of the goose hatch and vegetation green up in the Arctic has been a few weeks off of each other for several years in a row,” said Kraai. “This mismatch once again has resulted in low gosling survival.

“At best we can say there will be a few more young birds in the flock this year compared to the last couple of years.”

Continental goose populations, especially mid-continent Snow Geese, are declining for the first time in a long time due to four to five consecutive years of poor gosling survival, Kraai said.

The older birds remaining in the flock tend to make for increased frustration with hunters and likely lower success rates, officials said.

“At the end of teal season, there were still significant concentrations of Blue-Winged Teal remaining in the Dakotas and Nebraska,” said Kraai. “We will need a change in weather patterns soon to trigger a more pronounced migration before the regular season starts. The birds are there, they just need a good push of cold weather to get them moving soon.”