Although most duck sloughs in our area are dry right now, hunters turned in some impressive stories.

Limits were common with Green Wing Teal, and Gadwalls showing up in surprising numbers. Hunters with quality water bodies reported larger than expected numbers. Several hunters bagged Northern Pintails which tend to normally arrive a tad later in the season.

Greenhead numbers seemed to be about average for opening weekend in East Texas. Overall most hunters I spoke with were pleased with the results.

We have a different spin this year because of the pandemic. Some things were impacted by COVID-19 that I never even considered. Many of our birds come from Canada and a good number migrate from the Dakotas. The feds count nesting pairs and compare data to forecast what we should expect.

The northern states had a good 3-year stretch of better than average habitat which resulted in banner production numbers for several species. The Canadians do likewise and we share data and research information of their nesting numbers.

Well, COVID-19 cancelled both countries research and essentially we are going in to this season with many unknowns. Biologists still did some counting and any research I found seemed optimistic because of the continued better nesting habitat.

Of all the problems and disasters COVID-19 has brought us, the waterfowl hunters will receive a small gift. Canada closed waterfowl hunting to Americans. This was a travel ban and nothing to do with hunting but the borders were closed. The closed borders left thousands of US hunters home and Canadian outfitters suffering.

This is where the news gets good for all US waterfowlers. The migrating ducks, geese and cranes may not encounter a hunter until they reach Texas. This means more juveniles making their way south. Less hunting pressure, fewer decoys and an overall larger group of waterfowl completing their migration.

The state is divided in three parts for duck hunting.

East Texas is in The North Zone, the South Zone is roughly everything south of Interstate 10 and the High Plains Mallard Management Unit is west of a line from Vernon to Del Rio. The season’s first split will end Nov. 29 at sunset with the last split beginning on Dec.5 in the North Zone. Limits are roughly the same as last year at 6/day in the aggregate to include no more than five mallards, of which only two may be hens, three wood ducks, one scaup, two redheads, two canvasback, one pintail.

If you aren’t sure what zone you are hunting in on a planned trip, check out the TP&W website. Dates are different in each zone so be aware.

Good luck and practice safety at all times.