Last Saturday was the opener for the 2021-2022 duck season for the North Zone.
The state is divided into three separate zones. The South Zone is south of Interstate 10 from Orange to Del Rio. The High Plains Mallard Management Unit includes everything west of a line from Del Rio to Vernon along several highways as boundaries. The North Zone is everything north of Interstate 10 and east of the HPMMU line.
We have the Red River to our north, which is a not-so-well-kept secret for outstanding waterfowling. We also have the Sabine, Neches and several other river systems that produce solid numbers of ducks. Not to mention the reservoirs East Texas has available for duck hunting.
Lake Fork, Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn are always home for wintering waterfowl and can host spectacular duck hunts. Dozens of other public lakes and reservoirs are scattered all over East Texas that offer quality duck hunting. The private stock pond, beaver slough and even flooded fields during high water or heavy rains will hold good numbers of birds.
These smaller private land waters can be a gold mine of successful hunts during the right conditions. The majority of ducks are merely passing through but some spend the winter with us. Wood Ducks, for example, from Michigan or Minnesota may winter here. We also have resident population of Wood Ducks that live here year-round. Wood Duck hunting is a standard of East Texas and can be challenging.
If more action and different species appeal to you, then planning a trip north or south may be the best idea. The South Zone hosts the majority of wintering ducks and geese in Texas. The agricultural and marsh areas all along the southern shoreline have long been duck hunting favorites.
Along these vast rice or grain fields, hunters may encounter ducks from any flyway. There is actually a “Texas” duck that inhabits the South Zone. The Mottled duck is a year-round resident and does not migrate. Like most ducks, hunters have numerous names and monikers for each species. I have heard them called Summer Ducks, Texas Black ducks and Black Mallards. The Mottled Duck is hard to identify as the drakes and hens both appear to be hen Mallards.
The drake Mottled will have an olive/yellow bill and the hens will have an orange/black bill, just like a Mallard hen. In addition to the typical Pintail, Gadwall or Canvasback, the South Zone will probably put a new bird or two on your strap.
The High Plains Mallard Management Unit is also an incredible waterfowl destination. The western and extreme northern portions of our state winter an increasing number of ducks and geese. Again agriculture plays a major role in the waterfowling success of the zone. Peanut fields and playa lakes hunting in the HPMMU should be on any waterfowl hunters bucket list.
The HPMMU is also known for throwing in a misplaced migrant bird. The Canada Goose hunting in the HPMMU in my opinion is the best in the state. There are 23 subspecies of Canadas and they all have small differences with body weight or bill shape being the only difference.
Wherever you go, get out and send some reports. Duck hunters are notorious for NOT sharing (I don’t blame them).
Good Luck and enjoy the 2021-2022 duck season.