Duck hunting season in Texas is a big deal. In many ways, it’s a right of passage and an exciting time of the year for seasoned veterans and newbie duck hunters alike. Texas is abundant with wetlands, making it a prime landing spot for seasonal migrations.
Texas is no different than most other states in that there are laws and regulations in place, governing hunting dates, individual bag limits, youth and adult hunts, and more. If you’re new to the Lone Star state or looking to jump in on the next duck hunting season, we have your back.
Whether it’s questions over resident and non-resident licenses, how Texas deals with baiting, cost, or how many and what kind of ducks you can bag throughout the season, you’ll find your answers here!
Duck Hunting Season Dates in Texas
Let’s begin with the most obvious thing a prospective duck hunter needs to know, and that’s when duck season is open in Texas. Texas, like a lot of other states, divides duck seasons into regional zones. Each of these zones has specific dates for duck hunting.
If you’re of a mind to teach your child the fundamentals of hunting ducks and firearms, there is no better opportunity. Youth hunting season starts earlier than regular hunting season plus, you can still bring the kiddos along for the ride during the regular hunting season as well.
|High Plains Mallard Management Unit
|October 28-29, 2023 & November 3, 2023 – January 28, 2024
|November 11-26, 2023 & December 2, 2023 – January 28, 2024
|November 4-26, 2023 & December 9, 2023 – January 28, 2024
|High Plains Mallard Management Unit
|October 21-22, 2023
|November 4-5, 2023
|October 28-29, 2023
|September 9-24, 2023
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulates duck hunting and the above dates cover this coming duck season but not necessarily next year’s. While you shouldn’t expect it to change much from year to year, it’s always a good idea to jump on the Texas Parks and Wildlife page and check well in advance. Even a change of a single day could get you in trouble if you head out early.
It’s also a good source of up-to-date information on other hunting seasons, license requirements, along with any changes made throughout the seasons. They cover everything from ducks and whitetail deer to red snapper and wild turkey.
If you’ve never been duck hunting before, you’ll be surprised at the types of ducks you can legally hunt, along with the fact that you have to identify these birds on the fly (pun intended) because you don’t want to end up going over. Ducks are kind of like chickens—they stick together and it’s not a common thing to see a retail tagging along with pintails.
There are nine species limits on the list, one of which includes several additional duck species as well. If you’re a veteran, you can probably compartmentalize this information rather quickly. No matter what the bag limit is per duck, hunters in Texas have a 6-duck limit per day. How you reach that 6 is irrelevant so long as you don’t exceed the bag limit for any species and you don’t exceed 6 total.
Also, just like the above-listed season dates, bag limits are subject to change. It’s always a good idea to check ahead each season. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department may decide, due to the current conservation status of (insert duck species here) that the bag limit needs to be reduced.
- Teal – 6 (has its own, micro-season
- Mergansers – 6
- Mallards – 5
- Wood Ducks – 3
- Redheads – 2
- Canvasbacks – 2
- Scaup – 1
- Pintail – 1
- Dusky – 1 (Dusky ducks include hybrid black ducks, black ducks, mottled ducks, and ‘Mexican-type ducks) *There are no hunting dusky ducks for the first five days of each season, regardless of what zone you’re in. You cannot hunt them until the five-day exclusion is over
With a few exceptions, you have to jump through several hoops to legally go duck hunting in Texas. Veterans, youth hunters, and certain other individuals will run into some exceptions to the rules, depending on the license in question, the stamp, or the permit.
- A Texas hunting license is required by all hunters, regardless of age and status (The cost may change depending on age, veteran status, physical limitations, and state residency)
- All migratory game bird hunters at or over the age of 16 must have their Harvest Information Program Certification
- All hunters born after September 2, 1971, must have a Hunter Education Certification (Minimum age of certification is 9)
- All migratory game bird hunters must have a Texas Migratory Game Bird Stamp Endorsement (Exceptions include those under the age of 17, Lifetime Resident Combination holders, and Lifetime Resident Hunting license holders)
- All waterfowl hunters must have a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp), purchased at the Post Office or sporting goods stores in Texas
- Hunters must have an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit to hunt on some public lands throughout Texas
- Lake Permits may be required for hunting on some lakes throughout Texas
Sure, it sounds a bit more complicated than it is. Most of the complication comes with the initial stages when you’re just starting. Once you get everything for the first time, you’ll discover a flow to everything as each season rolls around. It’s far more simple if you opt for lifetime licenses.
- Resident Hunting License – $25.00
- Senior Resident Hunting License – $7.00
- General Non-Resident Hunting – $315.00
- Federal Duck Stamp – $28.50
- Upland Game Bird Endorsement – $7.00
- Upland Game Bird Endorsement – $7.00
- Youth Hunting License – $7.00
- Regular Daily Hunting Permit – $20.00
Duck Hunting in Texas: Legal Requirements and Baiting
First and foremost, baiting in Texas is illegal. Baiting often associates with dove hunting but it applies to waterfowl hunting as well. Baiting is the act of either purposefully placing or accidentally placing any kind of feed that attracts migratory game birds into an area. This includes salts, grain feeds, or any kind of feed that brings the birds in.
When it comes to baiting, there is also a 10-day rule that applies on top of the general understanding that baiting is a huge no-no. Not only is baiting illegal but hunting in an area where bait was cleared fewer than 10 days ago is also illegal. When all potential baiting is gone, wait an additional 10 days before hunting anywhere near that area.
Hunting Agricultural Land
As long as there is no seed or grain in the area, duck hunters can hunt on any agricultural land throughout the state of Texas. Areas with standing crops are fine to hunt, so long as feed and grain are not a part of it.
Distances Under Texas Law
While duck hunting in Texas, you have to be aware of your surroundings and what’s over every hill or beyond every lake. Texas doesn’t list a specific distance you have to be away from baiting areas. If someone is illegally throwing bait and you’re close by, there’s a good chance you will get in trouble
You also can’t hunt anywhere near areas where grain is, including grain elevators and grain bins. It’s a good idea to just avoid hunting anywhere livestock is grazing as well. If livestock are around, there’s a good chance that grain feed is around as well.
Duck-hunting hours in Texas are pretty straightforward. Duck hunting is legal half an hour before sunrise and ends at sunset. Keep in mind that as the sun goes down, it becomes more difficult to differentiate between duck species.
If you’ve already had your limit on a particular species in the bag, you may want to consider calling it a day if it’s getting too dark to decide quickly.
All Things Considered
Duck hunting season in Texas is an exciting time of the year but it doesn’t last long. Depending on what zone you’re in, the season starts and ends at different times, especially for youths and veterans. If you live out of state, it’s also a lot more expensive, so you might want to prepare a little earlier.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Anna Pozzi - Zoophotos/Shutterstock.com
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