A new federal and state timetable, as well as numerous proposed season changes, means more hunting opportunities for Texas bird hunters.
A new federal and state timetable will give the nearly half-million Texas migratory bird hunters more time to prepare for upcoming seasons and save thousands annually for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and an article from the Houston Chronicle indicates more changes for Texas bird hunters could be coming soon.
Proposed changes for the dove seasons are awaiting federal approval. Changes to duck and goose seasons have already been adopted. The shift in the timetable and the season changes are all aimed at giving migratory bird hunters more time to prepare as well as higher chances of success.
The timetable shift occurs at both the federal and state levels. Starting in 2016, the USFWS will change the timetable that has been used for almost 50 years and send down their season dates and regulations in October for the following year's seasons. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will then meet mid-winter to vote on and finalize the regulation specifics.
The hunting public can expect to receive migratory bird season information sometime in winter or early spring -- giving hunters months to prepare instead of mere weeks. In the past, the federal regulatory committees wouldn't set migratory bird hunting regulations until late summer. The TPWD would then receive the regulations and vote on them in August - less than a month before many season openers.
The new timetable will allow both hunters and outfitters to book trips months in advance, avoiding the last minute scramble of seasons past. Canada, a major waterfowl destination, has used this new and improved timetable for the past several years with good hunter success and bird numbers.
Another major benefit to the new timetable is migratory bird season specifics will now be included in TPWD's Outdoor Annual. TPWD will be able to set the season dates and regulations at the same time as deer, turkey, and other game animals so all the information will be published at the same time, in the same booklet. In the past, TDWD had to publish a separate digest for bird hunters. Putting all the season information in one publication will save thousands annually for the department and ultimately the hunters that fund it.
The Whitefront goose season will now be 86 days instead of 74. This change means all Texas goose seasons will last the same duration. Officials have also proposed a change to the duck seasons -- staggering the opening/closing dates between north and south zones. This proposed change is aimed at increasing hunter success in each zone.
Texas wildlife officials are also seeking federal approval to extend the dove season to 90 days.
USFWS staff and flyway councils give recommendations each year that are then voted on by USFWS officials and subsequently sent down to state wildlife departments. Texas will have to wait and see what proposals take effect and when but the new timetable will certainly be a positive thing for migratory bird hunters in upcoming seasons.