Texas Waterfowl Seasons Finalized, and Memories Prevail

This just in from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department … waterfowl hunting regulations for the 2008-2009 season.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the magnificence of a squadron of teal zipping overhead, wheeling into the wind, dropping their webbed  “landing gears” and settling into a carefully-placed block of decoys.
My brother Bill and I cut our duck-hunting teeth on small farm ponds in Lavaca County. We didn’t have dogs, so any bird that hit the water presented a challenge.
Setting out duck decoysOne, in particular, I will never forget.
I had knocked down a big, fully-plumed widgeon drake. The pond ducks always came in late, so it was only about 15 minutes shy of the close of legal shooting time when the curious bird detected the dekes and made its final approach toward the landing pad.
The bird went down hard, squarely centered in a dense pattern of number-four shot fired through a modified choke (back before steel shot had become mandatory). It smacked the water with a loud and resounding splash.
However, it was around 60 feet from the pond bank, with no cooperative wind to help push it to shore. It was cold, a misty late-November evening, and I had no intention of walking out into the frigid water, especially since I was wearing insulated waders.
So instead, I relied on the best option available. I had a 6-foot Skyline Graphite fishing rod sequestered in the bed of my truck, and in case the ducks were not cooperative, a tackle box laden with an assortment of lures.
The one that immediately caught my eye was a black Arbogast Jitterbug. In case you are too young to remember, the Jitterbug was at the time the established go-to surface-scratching plug for largemouth bass. Many other topwaters have since been manufactured and marketed, but to this day the Jitterbug remains a wonderfully effective option in the bass angler’s arsenal.
 As for the rod, Skyline was, at the time, leading the pack in the production of graphite fishing rods. The Dallas-based company was in charge of numerous military contracts involving the high-tech material known as “graphite,” and added Skyline fishing rods to the mix in anticipation of the coming wave of emphatic angler demands for more sensitive and lightweight rods.
 It was indeed sensitive. As for being “light,” at the time, it was. Nowadays, the average fiberglass popping rod weighs less than some of the initial Skyline production models, but this was new technology. Common to new technology, it was also expensive. This was the mid-70s. The rods averaged better than a hundred bucks apiece, which in today’s economic model would no doubt equate to at least three times as much. The real downside was the rods’ fragile nature. In the early era of graphite fishing rod production, blanks were about as sturdy as pencil leads.
 Anyhow, the Jitterbug went on the line. I strolled down to the bank, made a targeted cast toward the floating duck and was completely unprepared when the surface plug virtually detonated amidst an explosion of shattered pond water.
 Memory-bank fish are invariably larger. Even factoring that in, however, the bass that hammered the stationary lure had to have been at least a 5-pounder. This was, again, a different time, a time when a 5-pound largemouth still ranked as a “trophy,” especially when pulled from the constricted waters of a stock pond.
 In a sheer nanosecond, any thought of snagging that duck yielded to a volley of relentless casts intended to elicit the same thrilling result.
 It never happened. In retrospect, I realize now that the unanticipated adrenaline jolt caused me to work the ebony-bodied fishing lure at about five times the speed at which it should have been retrieved. That … the need to keep a cool head and make calculated retrieves … remains a challenge for every fishermen who receives an unexpected strike.Redhead ducks in flight
 With light conditions almost gone and a full moon eclipsing the horizon, I refocused my efforts on the duck. After a few casts I managed to snag its wing with a treble and pulled the bird to the shoreline.
 That night, it became part of a wild game stew cooked by Capt. Herschell Gollott of Freeport, a longtime partyboat captain who was also my father’s best friend, and who was a treasured fixture every year at camp during deer season. My brothers and I would have walked barefooted on the proverbial hot coals for Herschell and my dad, guys who just by being who they were forever changed our lives, and for the better.
 I mention this anecdote only because in the years since I have never failed to buy, along with my state licenses/duck stamps (now incorporated via the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s “Super Combo” license) a federal waterfowl stamp. Some years I barely hunted; others, I went a dozen times or more.
 But, every year, I carried an appreciation of waterfowl hunting that only blossomed with time. And I learned that the monies I spent were benefitting not just waterfowl, but every living creature that inhabits or visits flooded terrain.
 My brothers and I were, and are, very fortunate to have such a place at which to fish and hunt. For those who do not own land, however, there are nonetheless surprisingly productive duck hunting options available on national wildlife reserves.
 For information, call the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s toll-free information line, 1-800-792-1112, or go to the web at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
 If you get the chance to take a youngster duck hunting, during either the specially-relegated youth season time frame or during the regular open season, by all means do it. After all, youth participation in outdoor sports, and hunting in general, has been witnessing a disturbing decline. We can only change that trend by taking one kid at a time.
It’s interesting to me that now, over three decades later, that solitary widgeon did so much to inspire within me a profound sense of appreciation for waterfowl and the fragile wetlands they frequent.
 I hope you will create the opportunity, not only for the adolescent recipient of the trip but also for yourself.
 I say it all the time, and it draws some strange looks from those who don’t get it. But it’s a fact.
 If we want more ducks, we need more duck hunters.
 Here’s hoping you will play a role in increasing the ranks.


HOUSTON — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted waterfowl regulations for 2008-09 with no changes, but hinted next year’s process could see significant alterations.
Texas waterfowl hunters will once again have the Hunter’s Choice bag limit and a 74-day season in the North and South Duck Zones, and 89 days in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit.
This season will mark the third and final offering of the experimental Hunter’s Choice, which allows hunters to shoot five ducks daily, but only one in the aggregate of certain species. In the aggregate category, that one bird could be either a pintail, or a canvasback, or a “dusky duck” (mottled, black duck or Mexican-like duck) or a hen mallard.
Texas waterfowl hunting seasons for 2008-09 are as follows:
(Shooting Hours: one-half hour before sunrise to sunset)

Duck Daily Bag Limit: The daily bag limit shall be 5 ducks with the following species and sex restrictions — 2 scaup, 2 redhead, 2 wood duck; only 1 from the following aggregate bag: 1 hen mallard, or 1 pintail, or 1 canvasback, or 1 dusky duck (mottled duck, Mexican-like duck, black duck and their hybrids), all other ducks not listed — 5. Merganser Daily Bag Limit: 5 in the aggregate, to include no more than 2 hooded mergansers. Possession Limit: Twice the daily bag limit.

High Plains Mallard Management Unit
Youth — Oct. 18-19, 2008
Regular Gun — Oct. 25-26, 2008; Oct. 31, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009
No extended falconry season in the HPMMU

North Zone
Youth — Oct. 25-26, 2008
Regular Gun — Nov. 1-30, 2008; Dec. 13, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009
Extended Falconry Season- Jan. 26-Feb. 9, 2009
Youth — Oct. 25-26, 2008
Regular Gun — Nov. 1-30, 2008; Dec. 13, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009
Extended Falconry Season- Jan. 26-Feb. 9, 2009
Goose Season and Bag Limit Including The Light Goose Conservation Order
Possession Limit: Twice the daily bag limit for dark geese, no possession limit for light geese.

Western Goose Zone
Western Zone Daily Bag Limit: Light geese — 20 in the aggregate; Dark geese — 4 Canada and 1 white-fronted goose.
Light and Dark Geese — Nov. 8, 2008-Feb. 8, 2009
Light Geese (Conservation Order) — Feb. 9, 2009-March 29, 2009

Eastern Goose Zone
Eastern Zone Daily Bag Limit: Light geese — 20 in the aggregate; Dark geese — 3 Canada geese and 2 white-fronted geese.
Light geese and Canada geese — Nov. 1, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009.
White-fronted geese — Nov. 1, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009;
Light geese (Conservation Order) — Jan. 26-Mar. 29, 2009
Sandhill Crane
Zone A — Nov. 8, 2008-Feb. 8, 2009 — Bag Limits: 3 daily, 6 in possession
Zone B — Nov. 28, 2008-Feb. 8, 2009 — Bag Limits: 3 daily, 6 in possession
Zone C — Dec. 20, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009 — Bag Limits: 2 daily, 4 in possession

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