Central Flyway Ducks, Texas Looks Good for 2016-17

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partner organizations just wrapped up their annual waterfowl breeding population and habitat surveys on the breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada. These surveys monitor waterfowl populations and critical wetland habitat conditions, which are directly related to the number of birds which will head south through the Central Flyway and into Texas and other states during the fall and winter.

Estimates from these Central Flyway surveys are used to help set duck hunting season frameworks like bag limits and the number of hunting days. The overall North American total pond estimate, a measure of wetland habitat quantity, decreased by 21 percent from the estimate in 2015. While not great, the overall wetland habitat availability was similar to the long term average, and the total breeding duck population estimate decreased by only two percent from 2015 estimates and remained well above the long term average. This means duck hunting in Texas should be good this fall and winter.

Population estimates for 5 of the 10 surveyed duck species increased this year! Mallard numbers increased by one percent from last year to a total of 11.7 million birds, which is the highest estimate on record. Scaup and American wigeon populations showed the greatest increases (14% and 12%, respectively).

Redheads and American green-winged teal populations also experienced increases. Blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, northern pintail, gadwall, and canvasback population estimates revealed decreases in their overall numbers.

“The waterfowl breeding grounds are still experiencing a decline in grassland nesting habitat in portions of the United States and Canada, which is extremely important for nesting waterfowl. Significant acreage has been lost from these vital grasslands from declines in Conservation Reserve Program enrollment and loss of native prairie habitat,” said a state Central Flyway official.

Even with breeding duck populations again near record numbers, Texas hunters are reminded that many factors will determine whether or not large numbers of these birds show up in our wetlands. Fall and winter weather, as well as wetland habitat conditions here on the wintering grounds play major roles in duck migrations, which will ultimately define the hunting season for Texas’ duck hunters.

Get your ammo, check your gear, another good duck hunting year is near!

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Feral Hog, Predator Hunting at Daughtrey WMA

The James E. Daughtrey WMA is offering predator and feral hog hunting this fall through the TPWD public hunt program. Hunters can enter online at no cost through an “E-postcard” application. Daughtrey WMA has lots of game and covers over 31,000 acres. The property include Choke Canyon Reservoir between Three Rivers and Tilden in Live Oak and McMullen Counties.

The WMA was named in honor of State Game Warden James E. Daughtrey of Tilden who was fatally injured in an automobile collision while pursuing game law violators.

The Daughtrey WMA

Approximately 6,000 acres of uplands are open to public hunting by Annual Public Hunting Permit at conservation pool. The terrain on the WMA is generally flat with thorny brush dominated by mesquite, black brush and cacti. E-Postcard hunts for archery deer, feral hogs and coyotes will be limited to specific compartments on drawn dates as published annually.

Daughtrey WMA Offers E-Postcard Hunts

Only specific areas identified during orientation will be open. Some areas are accessible only by boat or significant hiking by foot. Hunters should take this into consideration before applying for this hunt. Some roads provide access to limited areas.

Hunting Daughtrey: Things to Know

A hunter orange vest and headwear is required for hunts with firearms. All hunters must attend a mandatory orientation at 11:00 a.m. on the first day of the hunt period. Hunt ends at noon or on the last day of the hunt period. Stand-by positions may be available. Hunters must fill out a harvest questionnaire at the end of the hunt.

A primitive campground is located at the area headquarters and will open the evening before the start of the hunt. Drinking water and electrical hookups are not available. A limited number of fire rings and picnic tables are provided on a first come, first served basis, as is one rented chemical toilet. There are no cold storage facilities available on site.

Camping is also available at Choke Canyon State Park – Calliham Unit, 361-786-3538. For further information contact WMA personnel at 361-274-3573 or 830-879-5496.

E-Postcard Details for Hunting at Daughtrey WMA

1. All hunters must attend a mandatory orientation at 11:00 a.m. on the first day of the hunt period. Hunt ends at noon on the last day of the hunt period depending on hunt type. Stand-by positions may be available. If you cannot attend orientation the Department is not obligated to offer makeup dates.

2. At orientation all hunters must have on their person a valid E-Postcard confirmation, valid driver’s license or ID card, Annual Public Hunting Permit, a Texas hunting license, and any special stamp as required by statute. Only hunters drawn for the E-postcard hunt will be admitted.

3. A permitted supervising adult must accompany hunters under the age of 17. Visitors will not be allowed to accompany hunters into the field. Hunter Education is required of all hunters born on or after September 2, 1971. (See Outdoor Annual for more information).

4. Daily On-Site Registration is required. All game harvested must be recorded on the form. Only species defined by hunt period at the time of orientation may be taken.

5. For the Feral Hog and Coyote Hunts only legal archery equipment, shoguns with slugs or muzzleloaders are allowed.

6. Hunter orange vest and headwear is required for all hunters on this hunt, regardless of hunt method.

7. Bag Limit: Unlimited feral hogs and coyotes on E-Postcard hunts. No other animal game or non-game may be taken or possessed.

8. Portable stands are allowed and baiting is permitted. All equipment must be removed before the end of the predator and hog hunting period. Corn must be certified less than 20 ppb aflatoxin free.

9. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-road vehicles (ORVs) are not permitted on the WMA, except for use by a disabled person or an adult directly assisting a disabled person. Proof of disability is required.

10. Alcoholic beverages may not be publicly displayed or consumed on the WMA, and persons under the influence of alcohol/drugs will not be permitted to enter the hunt area.

11. Hunters in the field and vehicles, including boats, within the WMA are subject to inspection by WMA Personnel and/or Game Wardens. Vehicles must also display a parking permit and be registered at the area headquarters.

12. Do not take any plants, animals (other than legally taken game), or artifacts from the Daughtrey WMA while hunting or otherwise, including shed deer antlers or skulls. Any artifact found must be left as they are; shed antlers or skulls can be brought to the check station.

Texas Public Duck Hunting at J.D. Murphree WMA

Some of the best public duck hunting opportunities in Texas can be found at the state-owned wildlife management areas (WMA) scattered along the gulf coast. During most years, these properties have good numbers of birds, good habitat and offer a number of hunt periods for waterfowlers. Freshwater is typically stable along the coastal plains of Texas, and the ducks know it.

Hunters looking for public duck hunting opportunities should take advantage of Texas’ WMA system. The state is even looking to get hunters off on the right foot.

Public Duck Hunting in Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) invites the hunters and others within the community to attend an informational meeting on public land hunting access during upcoming migratory game bird hunting seasons. Updates on public hunting access within the Upper Coast Wildlife Management Areas and information on the rules and regulations of leased lands will be covered.

The public meeting will be held Tuesday, August 23, from 6-8 p.m. at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area Check Station at 10 Parks and Wildlife Drive in Port Arthur, on the south side of highway 73 near the intersection of Jade Avenue.

Additional information regarding public hunting opportunity on TPWD-owned lands is available online. Hunters specifically interested in duck hunting at Murphree WMA can contact them directly at 409-736-2551. Bring on the birds!

Longer Dove Hunting Season in Texas: 20 Days More

With a new slate of fall hunting seasons ahead of us Texas hunters will be getting even more this year, 20 days more of dove hunting, to be exact. And with good sunflower production across the state thanks to all of the rain we received during the first-half of the year, it’s very timely that Texas hunters will have even more days to hunt dove.

The 2016-2017 Texas dove hunting season dates have been approved by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), and this year the season has been extended from 70 days up to 90 days, per the new federal framework for migratory bird hunting seasons.

Dove Hunting in Texas

All indications are that mourning and white-winged dove populations are doing well. Lots of rain and forage should translate into a robust year for hunters, with plenty of time to take advantage of bird numbers. The additional dove hunting days are being integrated early in the season to take advantage of doves migrating into the state.

Dove Hunting Season Dates by Texas Dove Zone

  • North Zone: September 1 – November 13, 2016 and December 17, 2016 – January 1, 2017
  • Central Zone: September 1 – November 6, 2016 and December 17, 2016 – January 8, 2017
  • South Zone: September 23 – November 13, 2016 and December 17, 2016 to January 23, 2017

Dove Season Dates for Texas’ Special White-Winged Area

  • Special Season: September 3-4 and September 10-11, 2016 (legal shooting hours are noon to sunset)
  • Regular Season: Sep. 23 – November 9, 2016 and December 17, 2016 – January 23, 2017

EHD in Deer: How Does EHD Kill Deer?

Hemorrhagic disease and the hot, dry weather from late summer to early fall go hand-in-hand. Hemorrhagic disease includes both bluetongue (BT) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Both BT and EHD are very similar and clinically indistinguishable except by virus isolation and the testing of blood samples. Most biologists classify them together as hemorrhagic disease (HD). Hemorrhagic disease is a highly fatal viral disease that is likely one of the most important diseases that occurs in white-tailed deer.

How do Deer Get EHD?

BT and EHD in deer is caused by a biting fly and occurs seasonally in late summer and fall. This disease occurs throughout the United States. These flies may also be commonly known as biting midges, sand gnats, or sand flies. Normally after a hard freeze, the flies will die off and disease transmission will cease.

In milder climates, the flies may persist and cause year-round infection. With this years’ milder than normal winter, this could occur in our part of Texas. EHD and BT are not spread by contact between deer. Occurrence of the disease may involve a few scattered cases or highly visible outbreaks with numerous animals over larger areas.

EHD in White-tailed Deer: Where does it occur?

EHD in Whitetail

Hemorrhagic disease can have three forms: peracute, acute, and chronic. The peracute form can kill a white-tailed very quickly, sometimes in a few as 8 hours. Because of this, body conditions do not have time to deteriorate and carcasses often appear relatively healthy when found. The acute form is considered the “classic hemorrhagic” form with various symptoms which will be discussed later. The chronic form is slower acting and is not always fatal to deer. This form can lead to poor body condition, hoof sloughing, and emaciation during the winter and leave the animal with permanent ailments. These ailments makes them more susceptible to predation or secondary infections even though HD itself does not cause the deer to die.

Deer can overcome the disease and it is not 100% fatal. Similar to the virus people are exposed to, deer that have been exposed will develop an immunity or resistance to EHD. Each time a deer is exposed to the virus its resistance increases. The large disease events occur when the virus hasn’t been present for several years and the young haven’t built up resistance, or a new serotype (strain of the virus) that the deer are naive to shows up.

How does EHD Kill Deer?

Common symptoms of classic EHD in deer include ulcers or lesions on the tongue, fluid in the lungs, hemorrhaging in the heart muscle and rumen, erosion of the dental pad, and interrupted hoof growth. Bluetongue appropriately gets its name from the hemorrhaging of the blood vessels of the tongue causing it to turn blue. While deer have the disease, high fever sets in and sick or dying deer are often found near water. Some deer may exhibit no signs or mild while others are more severe, depending on their resistance to the disease and their level of exposure. Neither EHD nor BT is infectious to humans, but as always any deer that shows signs of sickness should not be consumed.

Symptoms of EHD in White-tailed Deer

So you see a deer that does not seem right, HD or something else? While it is likely that sickness observed in late summer or early fall can be caused by EHD or BT, other diseases as well as parasites cannot be ruled out and a final determination cannot be made without a necropsy and proper testing. Hot and dry weather is hard on deer and can lead already stressed deer to decline even faster. Often times, the end stage of a disease or parasite overload in deer looks somewhat similar, regardless of the type of ailment.

Some characteristics of BT and EHD in deer would be poor body condition, panting, confused appearance, and unaware of surroundings. White-tailed deer, of course, are susceptible to a host of diseases and parasites. Wildlife do not have the opportunity to ‘go get checked’, so the sickness simply has to run its course, which ends in death or the survival of the individual, with enhanced immunity to that specific illness.

Management for HD, Other Deer Diseases

Additionally, much like the humans, there are years when sickness may be more prevalent in the wildlife populations. With a white-tailed deer population, as in any population, as the density increases the odds of disease transmission and outbreak significantly increase. Maintaining a deer herd within the carrying capacity of the habitat should be the goal of most every deer manager. An abundance of food helps maintain health for individual animals, which equates to better bucks and more productive does, but also a decrease in the rate of spread of any diseases within the deer herd.

Texas Duck Numbers Decline, Hunting Still Good

Texas has been on a good run when it comes to duck hunting over the past few years. Duck numbers have been solid despite some parts of the state lacking water in recent seasons, but the coast has held up during that time, thanks to more stable water conditions and good waterfowl production up north. Surface water is still looking great across the state thanks to an abundance of rain during the first-half of the year, but someone turned faucet righty-tighty just as the month of June began. Nothing new there; it’s summer in Texas.

It’s been a land of bears and honey in waterfowl terms, but recent news regarding waterfowl production sounds less than stellar. That’s because water has been limited on the breeding grounds. “A remarkably high number of returning ducks had to compete for a remarkably low number of wetlands,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl president and chief scientist. “That doesn’t mean good things for duck production.”

Water and ducks go hand-in-hand. Without water the amount of available wetland habitat decreases and that means fewer (good) nesting sites for ducks. Water has always been gold, especially for ducks.

Texas Duck Hunting Forecast 2016-17

Source:”We haven’t seen a below-average pond count in a long, long time,” Rohwer said. “I think we could decline from last year’s count of 6.3 million to fewer than 4 million, which we haven’t seen since 2003. Dry conditions almost certainly led to a lower initial nesting effort, a substantially reduced renesting effort and lower duckling survival in many areas of the breeding grounds. May and June rains in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota probably helped in some local areas, but not enough to offset the overwhelmingly dry conditions when the ducks returned this spring.”

According to observations by Delta biologists, and by USFWS pilots (which can be found online at flyways.us), dry conditions were most severe across the vital prairie grasslands of the Dakotas and southern edges of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Habitat condition improved for ducks up to average across much of Canada’s parkland vegetation farther north.

“While the parklands fared better with water this spring, we know after decades of research that nest success there is chronically low, so duck production is often weak,” Rohwer said.

Low pond counts can also decrease breeding population estimates, as species including mallards and pintails will overfly the dry prairies and settle farther north in the boreal forest and lightly surveyed areas. Fortunately, the record breeding population estimate in 2015 and moderate duck production last year should help minimize the declines.

“The total duck estimate should remain strong,” Rohwer said. “Last year, the overall population estimate was 49.5 million, so I suspect we will still exceed 40 million ducks — which is well above the long-term average — thanks to high carryover from several good breeding seasons.”

13 New Cases of CWD Confirmed in Texas

Thirteen new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) were confirmed at a Medina County captive white-tailed deer breeding facility on June 29.

Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) discovered these cases while conducting an epidemiological investigation on the quarantined facility after a 3 ½-year-old captive white-tailed doe tested positive for CWD in April 2016. This initial positive doe was tested for CWD due to increased surveillance testing required by the facility’s TAHC herd plan. The herd plan was developed to assess the risk of CWD in the facility for its association with the first Texas CWD positive herd.

USDA diagnostic sampling funds were utilized to conduct the testing. Of the 33 samples submitted to National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for testing, 13 of these samples revealed the presence of CWD prions. TAHC and TPWD will be working closely with the facility owner to develop future testing strategies to assess the CWD disease prevalence within the facility.

CWD in Deer in Texas

With these new positive cases, 25 total white-tailed deer originating from captive white-tailed deer breeding facilities have been confirmed positive for CWD in the state, including the initial CWD positive deer detected in June 2015.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 24 states and 2 Canadian provinces. In Texas, the disease was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border. Earlier this year, a free ranging mule deer buck harvested in Hartley County was confirmed CWD positive.

CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness. To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.

Whitetail Antler Growth: The Last 50 Percent

It’s hot and dry, but it’s also nearly July. Nothing new with some intense heat during the summer months, but there should soon be something worth seeing on your game camera. June marks the mid-way point for antler growth in white-tailed bucks. Up until now it’s been about bucks getting their foundations set, but the next 8-10 weeks will be about putting on the really good stuff, so if you’ve not placed out your cameras then get ready to do so.

July is the month when most of us are kicking it by our favorite watering hole, but bucks are out there trying to maintain stable nutrition during what can be a stressful time of the year. Most places in the eastern half of the US have received good amounts of rain this year. Some places have received way more. Not a good thing if your house is submerged, but have comfort in knowing that antler growth in bucks will be better than average this fall.

That middle-aged buck you were watching last year – well, he may really catch your eye in a few weeks.

Antler Growth in White-tailed Deer Bucks

Antler Growth Takes Food

Source: “This is the time of year when bucks seek out two key elements. First, they scour areas for food with a protein level of at least 20 percent. During this time of year they’ll devour more than 15 pounds of food each day.

In my Western backyard alfalfa hits the spot, but across the Midwest deer also seek out soybeans and clover-based food plots. They need the best nutrition possible since antler is growing at the fastest rate during the next two months (nearly half an inch per day under the right conditions).

Second, bucks seek shady refuge. Home territories shrink if food and water are in abundance. Find a bachelor herd of bucks now and you should be able to keep tabs [using game cameras] on them until they strip their velvet in early September.”

More on Antler Growth in White-tailed Bucks