AUSTIN, Texas -The final call about this fall's migratory game bird hunting seasons won't be made for another five months when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes its annual federal framework. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials have recently unveiled proposed options for dove, ducks, geese and sandhill cranes for 2003-04 that they hope will fly.
"These proposals are based on a liberal framework package at the federal level," explains Dave Morrison, TPWD migratory game bird program coordinator. "We won't know until later in the summer exactly what we can offer."
Most of the migratory game bird season proposals are identical to last year's offerings after accounting for calendar shifts, except where the early teal season is concerned. Based on the Service's decision last year to trim the September teal season from 16 days to 9 days, Texas opted to hold its season during the middle of the month. This year TPWD is recommending opening this year's early season later in the month to take advantage of more optimum hunting conditions later in the month. If adopted as proposed, this year's season would run Sept. 20-28.
Proposed season dates and bag limits for mourning dove are:
- North Zone: Sept 1-Oct. 30 with a 15-bird daily bag limit.
- Central Zone: Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and Dec. 26-Jan. 4 with a 12-bird daily bag limit.
- South Zone: Sept. 20-Nov. 5 and Dec. 20-Jan. 11 with a 12-bird daily bag limit. In the Special White-winged Dove Area in the south zone, the season would run Sept. 6, 7, 13, 14 then Sept. 20-Nov. 5 and Dec. 20-Jan. 7. During the first two weekends, the bag limit would be 10 in the aggregate, no more than 5 mourning dove or 2 white-tipped dove. The bag limit for the remainder of this season would be the same as the rest of the South Zone.
For the duck hunting seasons, TPWD is proposing the following:
- High Plains Mallard Management Unit: (98-day total season) Youth Only Oct. 18-19. General Season Sept. 29-Oct. 5 and Oct. 25-Jan. 21.
- North Zone: (76-day total season) Youth Only Oct. 25-26. General Season Nov. 8-9 and Nov. 15-Jan. 25.
- South Zone: (76-day total season) Youth Only Oct. 25-26. General Season Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 6-Jan. 18.
The proposed aggregate daily bag limits is 6 ducks, no more than 5 mallards (only 2 hens), 3 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 mottled duck and 1 pintail (restricted season). The daily bag limit for mergansers would be 5 (only 1 hooded merganser) and the daily bag limit on coots would be 15.
Here's what's being proposed for the goose hunting seasons:
- Western Zone: Light geese Oct. 25-Feb. 8 with a daily bag limit of 20. Dark geese Oct. 25-Feb. 8 with a bag limit of 5, no more than 1 white-fronted goose. The proposed conservation order for light geese would run Feb. 9-March 28. There is the possibility that the dark goose segment will be reduced from 107 to 95 days and a bag limit reduction from 5 to 3 Canada geese.
- Eastern Zone: North Segment light geese Oct. 25-Jan. 25 and South Segment light geese Oct. 25-Jan. 18 with a bag limit of 20 daily. White-fronted geese and Canada geese Oct. 25-Jan. 18 with an aggregate daily bag limit of 3, no more than 2 white-fronted or Canada geese. The proposed conservation order for light geese would run Jan. 26-March 28 in the North Segment and Jan. 19-March 28 in the South Segment.
The proposed sandhill crane seasons are as follows:
- Zone A: Nov. 8-Feb. 8 with a daily bag limit of 3 cranes.
- Zone B: Nov. 29-Feb. 8 with a daily bag limit of 3 cranes.
- Zone C: Dec. 20-Jan. 18 with a daily bag limit of 2 cranes.