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July 19, 2004
Texas Gets 9-Day Teal Season, Shift in Dove Zone Boundary
AUSTIN, Texas — A shorter teal season in Texas this September won’t necessarily mean less hunting success, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
This year’s teal season in Texas is set for Sept. 18-26 with a four-bird daily bag limit. Based on results of recent aerial census surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over duck breeding and nesting grounds in the northern prairies the blue-winged teal breeding population stands at 4.07 million.
In order to have a 16-day teal season, blue-winged teal breeding numbers must meet or exceed the 4.7 million population target set in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
"My impressions are that a lot of bluewings moved into the breeding areas a little late and fell in on good habitat conditions resulting from precipitation later in May," said Dave Morrison, TPWD waterfowl program leader. "As a result, I believe that production will be good and despite a nine-day season it should be a good one."
Although the final decision about the 2004-05 Texas migratory game bird hunting seasons still needs formal federal approval, TPWD’s executive director has approved dove, teal, rail, gallinule, snipe and woodcock hunting regulations for this fall.
In addition to teal, the season dates and bag limits for mourning dove in Texas as approved by the executive director are:
- North Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 30 with a 15-bird daily bag limit.
- Central Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and Dec. 26-Jan. 3 with a 12-bird daily bag limit.
- South Zone: Sept. 24-Nov. 10 and Dec. 26-Jan. 16 with a 12-bird daily bag limit. In the Special White-winged Dove Area in the south zone, the season would run Sept. 4, 5, 11, 12 then Sept. 24-Nov. 10 and Dec. 26-Jan. 12. During the special whitewing season, the bag limit would be 10 in the aggregate, no more than 5 mourning dove or 2 white-tipped dove.
The major change to this year’s dove regulations involves a shift of the Central Zone boundary to include areas within San Antonio’s South Loop (FM 1604), which will give hunters earlier access to a huge population of white-winged doves, according to Jay Roberson, TPWD dove program leader.
"In those portions outside the city limits where discharge of firearms is allowed, hunters can capitalize on those feeding flights of whitewings," he said. TPWD conservatively estimates San Antonio’s whitewing population to be in excess of 1.25 million birds.
Although whitewing numbers continue to increase in Texas, particularly in urban areas, biologists are concerned about a long-term decrease in mourning dove populations. Recent call count survey estimates by TPWD are tracking a trend that has seen a 15 percent decline during the last couple of decades.
In order to get a better understanding of mourning dove ecology, biologists in Texas and 27 states are participating in a massive bird banding study. This cooperative effort is hoped to provide information that will update existing information about the biology of this species to improve management.
Doves will be marked with metal leg bands containing a unique number and a toll free telephone number (800-327-BAND or 2263) which hunters can call to report the band. Bands may also be reported on the Internet at (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl). Hunters may keep the bands. It only takes a minute and doesn’t cost a cent and hunters receive a certificate of appreciation that identifies when and where the dove was banded.
Dove hunting prospects for this fall look good, according to Roberson. Moisture conditions have been good for feed production throughout most of the state. "I think we’ll see good dove production this year despite the heavy rains in some areas," he said. "We’re seeing a lot of young birds collected during our banding efforts. Hunting success should be good, provided feed conditions remain good."
Rail and gallinule seasons are set for Sept. 11-26, and Oct. 30- Dec. 22. Common snipe or jacksnipe may be taken Oct. 30 through Feb. 13, 2005. The TPWD Outdoor Annual or digest of hunting regulations will be available at stores where licenses are sold beginning in August. Please check the Outdoor Annual for daily bag limits and restrictions regarding hunting means and methods.
The general waterfowl seasons won’t be set until late August by the Service. Overall breeding population estimates along the traditional survey area released July 8 put ducks at 32.6 million, down 11 percent from last year and 3 percent below the long-term average.
While mallard numbers remain similar to last year’s, some of the "bread and butter" ducks for Texas hunters have taken a dive. Pintails were down 15 percent from last year and wigeon numbers dropped by 22 percent. Gadwall, shovelers and green-winged teal are either above or similar to last year’s numbers and canvasbacks showed an increase of 11 percent above last year’s estimates. Although down from recent all-time highs of the early ’90s, all remain above the long-term averages.
Information about goose populations is still being compiled and season proposals will be finalized following the Central Flyway Council discussions later in July.
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