Texas dove hunters to get an extra 20 days of hunting next fall

Texas dove hunters to get an extra 20 days  of hunting next fall

For the first time in over 80 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a 90-day dove season in Texas for 2016-17. That means we’ll be getting an additional 20 days of hunting during the fall, plus we’ll get to keep 15 doves per day. Also, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is recommending a later opener for duck hunting, with a shorter break between splits for the North Duck Zone and a later overall season in the South Duck Zone. This is all part of the statewide hunting proclamation for Migratory Game Birds that is up for public comment.

Public comment on any of the proposed regulation changes may be made in person at upcoming public meetings. The public meeting here in Southeast Texas will be held at the Jefferson County Courthouse on March 2.

“Under new federal guidelines, Texas is now able to present proposed migratory game bird regulation changes earlier in the year than previously allowed,” says Steve Lightfoot, with TPWD. “This means the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission can adopt dove and waterfowl hunting seasons at its March 24 public hearing.

TPWD staff proposes to mix the additional 20 dove-hunting days early in the season to take advantage of migrating birds. The traditional Sept. 1 dove season opening day in the North and Central Zones would remain, while the South Zone would open Sept. 23. The first segment in the North and South zones would extend through Nov. 13, while the Central Zone would be open until Nov. 6. The season would reopen statewide Dec. 17 and run through Jan. 1, 2017, in the North Zone; Jan. 8, 2017, in the Central Zone; and Jan. 23, 2017, in the South Zone.

TPWD is recommending a Sept. 10-25 early teal season with a daily bag limit of six birds.

For the general duck season, the following calendar is proposed.

• North Zone — Youth: Nov. 5-6; Regular: Nov. 12-27 and Dec. 3 – Jan. 29; black duck: Nov. 17-27 and Dec. 3 – Jan. 29.

• South Zone: Youth — Oct. 29-30; Regular: Nov. 5-27 and Dec. 10 – Jan. 29; black duck: Nov. 10-27 and Dec. 10 – Jan. 29.

The bag limit will remain at six per day to include no more than five mallards, of which only two may be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintail, two canvasbacks, and one mottled or black duck after the first five days.

For geese, the proposed framework is as follows.

• East Zone: Early Canada goose (bag limit of five Canada geese only, and possession limit of 15) Sept. 10-25 and Nov. 5 – Jan. 29, 2017; white-front Nov. 5 – Jan. 29, 2017; light Nov. 5 – Jan. 29, 2017; conservation order Jan. 30 – Mar. 19, 2017. The bag limit after the early Canada goose season would be five dark geese, to include no more than two white-fronted geese, and 20 light geese (no possession limit).

Best Texas quail hunts in 20 years

Quail hunting can be hit or miss in Texas, especially the South Texas regions where in some years over a 100,000 hunters pursue these fast flying game birds. The predictions by TPWD in 2015 were right on the money for South Texas, where big time numbers of quail have made this one of the best seasons in over 20 years.

“I haven’t seen anything like this season’s quail hunts in well over two decades,” says South Texas hunting guide Robert Sanders. “We’re seeing 30 or more coveys per hunt.”

Sanders has been hunting on ranches in Star County for years. Last weekend I hunted with him, Mike Ramsey and Dr. Curtis Thorpe, and in one day we jumped 32 coveys. That’s about as good as quail hunting gets.

Drought conditions over much of the core quail hunting areas in the spring and summer of 2013 resulted in only limited production. Many ranches opted to limit hunting last season in hopes of aiding recovery. Timely rains this past spring and summer provided plenty of ground cover, abundant forbs and countless insects that bobwhite quail survive on. Plus, the combination of frequent rainfall and below average temperatures resulted in an extended window of breeding and nesting opportunity throughout South Texas.

The result has been an excellent 2015-16 season that comes to a close Sunday, Feb. 28.

Red snapper reallocation doomed

The process to reallocate Gulf red snapper has been a frustrating exercise for recreational anglers. What started with great promise years ago is nearing the finish line as a woefully inadequate conclusion, says the Coastal Conservation Association. Rather than conduct a reallocation process that examined economic and demographic changes since the fishery was last allocated in 1991, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council defaulted into shifting a mere 2.5 percent of the allocation to the recreational sector by simply fixing errors in the federal government’s recreational data collection systems.

Amendment 28 - Red Snapper Reallocation is not “reallocation” at all but a simple recalibration of data. Nevertheless, the commercial red snapper sector has already filed a lawsuit to prevent even this minimal shift from being implemented, according to the CCA.

The Gulf Council has approved Amendment 28 and submitted it to the National Marine Fisheries Service for review and implementation. 

Recreational anglers did their part and tried to work within the system on Amendment 28, but were failed again by an unresponsive federal fisheries management system, according to CCA. CCA remains committed to shifting management of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery to the Gulf states, which have proven to be far more capable and responsive to the needs of all fishermen, the organization says.


Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.