AUSTIN— As young ducks of all species migrate into the state over the coming weeks, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists suggest that their arrival could indicate a successful waterfowl season for Texas hunters.
While significant data is limited as the May Breeding Waterfowl Survey was canceled this year due to COVID-19, Kevin Kraai, the TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader, says that reports from waterfowl breeding grounds in Canada and the United States prairie states helped TPWD in forecasting conditions for the upcoming season.
“Duck production in North and South Dakota was reported to be exceptional this past summer,” Kraai said. “We always see a nice increase in hunter success when the flock is made up of a lot of young ducks.”
The special youth-only waterfowl season began in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit on Saturday, followed by youth-only waterfowl season in the South Zone on this Saturday and the North Zone on November 7. Regular duck season in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit opens on Saturday, in the South Zone on November 7 and the North Zone on November 14. More information on season dates, including those for “Dusky” duck, and bag limits can be found in the Outdoor Annual.
“We are already hearing good reports of birds building in many of flooded rice fields and coastal marshes along the Texas coast,” Kraai said. “Texas duck hunters will have the most opportunity for a fruitful season when hunting in east Texas and along the coast. Most successful hunters will be mobile as conditions will vary throughout the state.”
East Texas has seen above average rainfall throughout the summer and late summer rain events from tropical storms have helped to further prepare the landscape for the arrival of migrating ducks. Soil moisture is high and any new rainfall this winter will begin to pond. These conditions, along with river flooding events, are important to duck populations in the region. Reservoirs are higher than normal for this time of year and the shallow shorelines and river mouths will be a big draw to ducks.
Coastal Texas has seen three tropical storm events in 2020 and storm surges have impacted many of Texas’ coastal marshes and estuaries. Salt water has reached further inland impacting the fresh water submergent vegetation that ducks love. Rainfall, however, is still needed to help freshen those systems and save those important food sources. Further inland, landowners are continuing to manage rice prairies and moist-soil wetlands that provide a significant food source for ducks. TPWD biologists suggest that ducks will concentrate on these locations, making for ideal hunting conditions.