How to plan a perfect Texas duck hunt
In hunting, timing is everything, and never more so than when hunting migratory birds like ducks. Located directly under the Central Flyway – one of the country's most important migratory routes – Texas is blessed with some of the best duck hunting opportunities in North America. Every year, many duck species arrive in the woods and wetlands of Texas in vast numbers, but planning your hunt at just the right time is no small task.
Texas duck hunting zones
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department divides Texas into three duck hunting zones. The High Plains Mallard Management Unit consists of 92 counties in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle, while the South Zone is made up of 54 counties that lie roughly south of Houston and San Antonio. The state's remaining 139 counties comprise the North Zone. Each of these zones has its own distinct hunting season dates.
Texas duck seasons
Hunting seasons in Texas are subject to change from one year to the next. At the time of publication, the regular duck hunting seasons are as follows:
- High Plains Mallard Management Unit: October 28 - 29, and November 3 - January 28
- South Zone: November 4 - 26, and December 9 - January 28
- North Zone: November 11 - 26, and December 2 - January 28
The hunting of "dusky" ducks is not permitted during the first five days of duck hunting season. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department defines a dusky duck as a mottled duck, Mexican-like duck, black duck and their hybrids.
An additional youth-only duck hunting season is also available, typically a few days earlier than the regular season. Only those 15 years of age and under may hunt during youth-only seasons.
Duck hunting permits and requirements
Any hunter must have a valid hunting license to hunt in Texas. This requirement includes youth hunters. A valid Federal Duck Stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification are also required for anyone aged 16 and over to hunt ducks and other game birds. You can receive HIP certification when you purchase your hunting license by answering a few simple questions.
All hunters born on or after September 2, 1971 are required to successfully complete a hunter education training course before hunting in Texas. This course is available either in person or online through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Proof of certification must be on your person while hunting.
Bag limits and regulations
At the time of publication, the daily bag limit for duck hunting is six birds, which includes no more than five mallards (only two of which may be hens), three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, one pintail, two canvasback and one "dusky" duck. Legal hunting hours are one half-hour before sunrise until sunset.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department publishes an annual Waterfowl Digest, which includes a complete guide to all Texas duck hunting seasons, bag limits and other regulations for the current year. This guide is available online and in print form anywhere hunting licenses are sold.