Duck and goose hunting is a big deal throughout the United States, but I grew up hunting ducks in the Central Flyway and look forward to doing so each year. With Texas receiving an early cool front in late August, I am getting pumped up about the upcoming duck season. Landowners and hunters that involved with wetland management for wintering ducks and geese should expect another great season!
Last year was hit and miss in Texas with regards to ducks numbers, though the traditional areas with good habitat had the birds as usual. The Texas coast put together some stringers of birds and so did the reservoirs in East Texas. There were also good duck hunting reports scattered throughout the central portion of the state.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department released some interesting notes from the 2009-2010 Texas duck harvest that are pretty neat. Last duck season the Texas mallard harvest was up over 6%, but mottled duck harvest was down almost 10%. Mottled ducks already comprise only 1 bird in the bag limit, so the future does not look good for mottled ducks right now, unless they hatch off an abundance of ducks this year.
In addition, the national mottled duck age ratio increased from 0.73 to 1.11 immature birds per adult during 2009, so I guess part of the reduction in harvest of this species is attributed to the changes in bag limit between the 2008-09 season and the 2009-10 season.
On the bright side, gadwall harvest in Texas was up over 41%! To add to the great news, wigeon harvest was up over 43%! These plant-eating birds really jumped in harvest and helped duck hunters put birds on the stringer. Green-winged teal harvest, on the other hand, dropped about 15% while blue-winged teal and shoveler harvest doubled—up over 100%.
Other ducks of mention included northern pintail, where harvest was up slightly at just over 4%. Wood duck harvest in Texas rose 10% thanks to more liberal bag limits for these forest-dwelling ducks. I love hunting wood ducks, especially in areas where forest management is undertaken to create excellent habitat for these birds.
The duck that did the worst last year was the lesser scaup, because the juvenile to adult age ratio continued to show a potentially alarming decline. I know most duck hunters will not be overly concerned with a declining scaup population, but hopefully biologist can determine what is going wrong with these species. We can only hope this is not a sign of bigger things to come.
In closing, the Texas duck harvest for the 2008-09 hunting season ended up looking really good with total harvest up 29% over the previous year, suggesting the ducks were back. Will the waterfowl be back in the Lone Star State this year? You know they will be—let’s just hope they decoy!