Teal season kicks off

by SOURCE Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Austin—The opening day of teal hunting season was Saturday, Sept. 9, and despite dry conditions throughout much of the state, Texas hunters will have opportunities to harvest birds.

Although habitat conditions across much of the state are currently very poor due to record heat and a lack of precipitation, bright spots include portions of the Texas Panhandle, where some areas received record rainfall earlier this summer. Precipitation provides critical shallow freshwater habitat on the landscape for incoming birds.

Many playa basins are still holding water going into the season and birds should find these areas of the state very favorable as well. Deep south Texas and portions of the lower Gulf Coast also hold some promise thanks to much-needed rainfall from the recent tropical storm.

“Overall, this September I’m expecting a below-average teal season for much of the state due to dry conditions,” Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), said. “Things can and often do change quickly, and if precipitation does finally come, migrating teal will most certainly take advantage of any new surface water that may appear. It would instantly improve prospects for hunters.”

Blue-winged teal breeding populations declined 19 percent from the previous year’s estimate, but the good news is the current estimate of 5.2 million remains above their long-term average. This current estimate is above the 4.7 million bird threshold required to have a 16-day teal season for 2023-24, resulting in no changes to the season length or bag limits for both this season and 2024.

The 16-day statewide 2023 early teal season in Texas will run through Sept.24. The daily bag limit on teal is six with a possession limit of 18.

Blue-winged teal are the second most abundant duck in North America and by far the most prevalent duck found in Texas during the special early teal season. They primarily breed in the Prairie Pothole Regions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“Production in the eastern Dakotas was above average and an abundance of teal broods were observed later in the summer, thus there should be plenty of juvenile birds winging their way toward Texas this fall,” Kraai said. “Portions of eastern North and South Dakota saw significant increases in ponds on the landscape this past May.”

As for conditions and prospects for teal season around the state, TPWD waterfowl biologists report:

Water restrictions, due to excessive drought in Central Texas, will play a significant role in the availability of waterfowl habitat this fall and winter. Most of the rice prairies will not have access to canal water and will have to rely on rainfall to fill wetlands and fallow rice fields.

Landowners and managers that have access to irrigation water/groundwater are sitting in the best position. Birds will concentrate heavily in these areas and reports are already very good, with teal arriving daily to these locations. These areas should expect an excellent teal season.

Kraai said migratory bird hunters need to make sure they are Harvest Information Program (HIP) certified and confirm the HIP questions are answered correctly. HIP surveys allow biologists to get an accurate sample of hunters so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can deliver harvest surveys to a subsample of hunters later in the year.

Hunters should purchase their new 2023-24 Texas hunting license prior to hitting the field. In addition, teal/waterfowl hunters will also need a migratory game bird endorsement, federal duck stamp and HIP certification. It’s also required by law that hunters have proof of their completion of a hunter education course.

Teal season dates, along with regulations, bag limits and more, can be found in this year’s Outdoor Annual. Hunters can also access digital copies of their licenses via the Outdoor Annual and My Texas Hunt Harvest apps.

Anyone hunting on Texas public hunting lands must purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit. Texas has more than one million acres of land accessible to the public. More information about these lands and locations can be found on the TPWD website. Hunters using public lands can complete their on-site registration via the My Texas Hunt Harvest app.

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