AUSTIN – The 16-day early teal hunting season opened statewide Saturday with guarded optimism tempered by the reality that many waterfowlers along the Texas coast are focusing on storm recovery.
Hunting along the Texas coast typically accounts for about half the teal bagged during the early September season and, unfortunately, conditions at 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 through Sunday, Sept. 23. The daily bag on teal remains six, with a possession limit of 18. Bag limit for Canada geese will be three and a possession limit of six in the Eastern Zone only.
The good news for those able to go afield, 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. This week we are experiencing a full moon and a stronger than normal cool front. This should really move teal down to Texas just prior to the opener.”
For hunters along the interior of Texas, prospects for the early teal season are looking quite good habitat wise and good shooting is expected to occur on the upper ends of reservoirs, playas, and large stock ponds.