Hurricanes, teal and doves – good news, bad news

Hurricanes, teal and doves – good news, bad news

The good news is that the teal season is open through Sept. 24, but the bad news is that most of the very popular public hunting areas in Southeast Texas are closed due to the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. But with a well-timed cool front last week and the full moon Sept. 6, we had a load of teal migrate down the Central Flyway and settle into flooded fields in this region of Texas.

Hunting along the Texas coast typically accounts for about half the teal bagged during the early September season, but unfortunately, many prime areas are inaccessible due to storm debris. Several wildlife management areas and state parks have canceled scheduled hunts, while others are delaying access until conditions improve. National wildlife refuges along the coast and in East Texas have also been impacted and are currently closed.

“I really wish I knew the full impacts of the storm on the upcoming teal season,” said Kevin Kraai, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Waterfowl Program leader. “The coast, our most important teal hunting area, has been greatly impacted. Saltwater intrusion in the marsh and freshwater from flooding will likely cover and disperse a lot of the preferred foods and potentially make water depths too high for teal. The edge of the flooding will be where the teal will be. I just suspect most people along the coast will have their minds on other things this September and participation will be low.”

The 16-day statewide early teal and Eastern Zone Canada goose season will run Saturday, Sept. 9 – Sunday, Sept. 23. The daily bag on teal is six. Bag limit for Canada geese will be three and a possession limit of six in the Eastern Zone only.

For a guided teal hunt, you can call Dwayne Lowrey at (713) 410-1338. He’s running hunts on the middle Texas coast on freshwater ponds.

“We loaded up with teal last week,” says Lowrey. “That was just in time for the opener.”

The good news for those able to go afield is blue-winged teal population estimates this fall are up 18 percent over last year at 7.9 million birds. That’s a 57 percent increase above the long-term average.

And according to Kraai, the primary factors that trigger duck migration have aligned heading into the season.

“Migration timing is looking very good,” he said. “Blue-wings, more than any other duck, are driven by day length, and early September cool fronts on full moons really move them the best.”

For hunters on the lakes, prospects for the early teal season are looking quite good, habitat wise. Good hunts are expected to occur on the upper ends of reservoirs and large stock ponds. By the way, if you have a deer lease or land with stock tanks, you might want to check to see if they are holding teal.

Dove hunts are not looking too good

With so much water on the ground, dove hunts in Jefferson County have been basically washed out – thanks again to Harvey. However, dove hunts have been pretty good over goat weed and grain fields in the dry areas of the Central and North zones. The regular season in the South Zone won’t open until Sept. 22. Hopefully, things will have dried out by then and dove hunts will return to normal.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that the archery season on deer opens Saturday, Sept. 30. This might be a good time to get out into the woods and set up ground blinds and tripod stands, not to mention working in all the practice you can squeeze in before the dawn of a new bow season.

By the way, I was talking with Sabine Lake guide Jerry Norris a few days ago, and he casually mentioned that he had gathered up a crew of guys in the aftermath of Harvey and they managed to rescue quite a few stranded folks down around the Port Acres and Port Arthur area. With that pretty much over he’s got that crew set up for hire to start tearing the walls out of flooded homes. If you’re looking for a little help you can give him a call at (409) 718-8782.

Loading up with drinking water saves the day

I stopped by a friend’s house the other day and was stunned at the number of plastic gallon jugs of water stacked up in his garage and in the house. He had been collecting the plastic jugs since Hurricane Rita tore through Southeast Texas. They were all full of tap water he and his family had filled up prior to Harvey’s arrival. They not only had plenty of drinking water, but the jugs could be set out in the sun for a warm but short shower at the end of the day. They never came close to running out of water, especially when it came to flushing the commode – very important.