Teal, doves, redfish are in the hunt

Both teal and dove hunts have been fair across Southeast Texas. Best teal hunts

The teal season opener last weekend was very good – if you were on the right water. For example, Bobby Vaughan, who hunts in the China/Nome area west of Beaumont, hasn’t seen a duck since last season. On the flip side, hunters south and north of Winnie got fast and easy limits.

At the J.D. Murphree Area in Port Arthur, the average was about two teal per hunter, according to Area Manager Mike Rezsutek.

“We had 80 hunters out on Saturday and 100 on Sunday,” says Rezsutek. “We should get a lot more teal in this week with a light front that’s supposed to move through.”

One big issue is that the feds opened the season a week earlier than normal. Typically the later the season opens, the better our teal hunts are here in Southeast Texas. The next big push of birds will be on the next full moon phase Sept. 16. That translates into excellent hunts through the weekend. The teal season runs through Sunday, Sept. 25.

Central Zone dove hunts have been slow in many areas of Southeast Texas. But if you happen to be set up on a “hot” field, the shooting has been pretty good. Sunflower fields have been providing some outstanding hunts west of Beaumont. The South Zone season opens Friday Sept. 23.

Did you know that Texas is home to several subspecies of doves? Some are protected but legal to hunt, such as the mourning, white-winged and white-tipped varieties. Others, like the rock dove and Eurasian collared, are unprotected and can be hunted. And some, like the Inca dove, band-tailed pigeon and common ground dove, are protected and cannot be hunted. More information about these different doves, including images, can be found online at tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/know-your-doves.

Roughly 10 percent of the nation’s 350 million mourning doves, many of which migrate on the winds of fall cool fronts from states to the north — along with about 9 million white-winged doves — make their way across Texas during the winter. Because they are a migrant bird species, dove populations and hunting are managed jointly between federal government agencies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Dove hunting is a big deal in Texas, not just in the number of participants, but for the contributions to local economies in rural areas of the state. It’s estimated that expenditures and taxes from dove hunting contributes over $400 million to the Texas economy.

Dove season in the North Zone runs Sept. 1 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 1, 2017; in the Central Zone from Sept. 1 – Nov. 6 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 8, 2017; and in the South Zone from Sept. 23 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15, and the possession limit 45.

Fishing along the coast has been very good for redfish. Sabine Lake guide Colby Denbow reports that he’s taking limits of reds on topwaters and tails. Most of those fish are being caught under small groups of birds holding over shad pushed to the surface by reds. Bull reds are good at the jetties on live shrimp and fresh cut mullet.

Family-friendly outdoor expo is set for Sept. 24

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is offering visitors on Sept. 24 opportunities to learn about a wide range of outdoor skills and participate in family fun events during its annual Outdoor Expo and Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament. The expo will run from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Highlighting the event is the Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament, held on the TFFC’s free fishing ponds. Visitors can sign up for the tournament in Anglers Pavilion when they arrive and registration is free. Weigh-in and the awarding of prizes will take place at 2:30 p.m. in the Anglers Pavilion.

Among the many exhibits and activities are live animal displays featuring reptiles and raptors. The Blackland Prairie Raptor Center will present a raptor show at noon and will be conducting walk-around displays on the grounds. Wildlife on the Move will present a variety of interesting creatures at 1 p.m. followed by a see-and-touch session at 3 p.m.

Other exhibits include Dutch oven cooking demonstrations and sampling, hands-on displays featuring skins, tracks and skulls of predator and prey animals, and marine life in touch tanks presented by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries staff.

Visitors can view fish up close in their natural habitats along glass bottom stream aquaria and watch a diver hand-feed fish in the TFFC’s 26,000-gallon dive tank aquarium during shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Purtis Creek State Park staff will teach kayaking skills and water safety, volunteers will teach the basics of fly fishing and fly tying and the Henderson County 4H Club will offer instruction in archery skills.

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is at 5550 F.M. 2495, about four miles east of Athens. All expo events are included with paid admission, which is $5.50 for adults and $4.50 for seniors. Children 12 and under will be admitted free to the EXPO and must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call (903) 676-2277 or visit tpwd.texas.gov/tffc.