For the first time in several years, we have some higher water level marks to greet record populations of wintering waterfowl.
Most species of ducks important to Texas waterfowlers are well above long term averages, with mallards and green-winged teal reaching new all-time highs. A staggered opener this season in the North and South Zones along with a concurrent split will allow duck hunters who wish to hunt across zones in essence an additional two weeks of opportunity.
Check the online Outdoor Annual’s Migratory Game Bird Regulations carefully for waterfowl definitions, bag limits, shooting hours and details of the species you plan to hunt. Keep the details at your fingertips in the field with the Outdoor Annual – Texas Hunting and Fishing Regulations mobile app. Print a copy of the PDF of the 2015-2016 Waterfowl Digest for a carry-along copy of the regulations.
There are a few regulation changes to be aware of:
- Bag limit for canvasbacks increases to two
- Bag limit for Canada geese in the Eastern Zone increases from three to five daily
- Daily bag limit on white-fronted geese increases to two in the Western Zone
- Number of hunting days for white-fronted geese in the Eastern Zone increased from 72 to 86, with the additional days added to the end of the season framework
What a Waterfowler Needs
When heading out, every waterfowler needs to make sure to have these four things:
- valid hunting license
- Migratory Game Bird Endorsement
- Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification
- proof of Hunter Education
In addition, sandhill crane hunters need to pick up a free Federal Sandhill Crane Hunting Permit and duck hunters 16 years of age or older need a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (commonly called a “Duck Stamp”; available at most post offices and TPWD offices). This year Congress increased the price of the federal duck stamp to $25, plus state and federal administrative fees.
Licenses, endorsements and permits may be purchased at a license retailer near you. They may also be purchased online or by phone (800-895-4248) with a $5 administrative fee required for each transaction.
Every hunter (including out-of-state hunters) born on or after September 2, 1971 must carry proof of Hunter Education Certification or deferral on their person while hunting.
Video Quiz: Is that flying white bird a legal target?
You must quickly distinguish between legal migratory game species (geese, sandhill cranes) and non-game species that are illegal to hunt like ibis, egrets, pelicans and the endangered whooping cranes.
Take this video quiz to be sure you are aiming at the right bird in the right season. And if there’s any doubt about your target, don’t shoot. Remember that shooting a whooping crane can result in up to a $100,000 fine and/or 1 year in jail.
Looking Forward to Next Year
Beginning this fall, TPWD will be altering the timeline and process by which migratory game bird seasons are set. A change in federal guidelines will allow TPWD staff to propose changes to migratory bird seasons to the commission for the following year’s duck season nearly an entire year prior to the beginning of that season. As a result of this change, Texas hunters will have an opportunity to review and comment on proposed changes to the 2016-17 seasons next spring, with final approval by the TPW Commission in March 2016.