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TPWD Unveils Possible Changes to Regulations
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is looking to clarify the hunting regulations by standardizing seasons and simplifying rules relating to white-tailed deer and turkey.
TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Wednesday, Nov. 3, about a series of issues that could result in changes to hunting and fishing regulations next year. Each year, TPWD considers changes in hunting and fishing regulations to achieve resource management objectives and maximize outdoor recreation opportunities.
The regulatory review process begins each fall after resource assessments by biologists and game wardens, as well as independent recommendations received from various groups.* Additional discourse is sought during special public meetings in the spring, and the commission at its April meeting determines the final regulation changes.
Following is a summary of those potential changes.
Potential Wildlife Regulation Changes
- Explore antler-restriction rules in selected additional counties. This proposal would look at creating rules similar to those currently in place in six counties along the coastal prairie. TPWD is researching feasibility and public attitudes in 15 additional counties, mainly in the Coastal Prairie region. According to TPWD big game program director Clayton Wolf, this change would only happen with broad public support. “If we assume the antler restrictions are an option on a regulatory basis (at a county or regional level), our next step would be looking at other parts of the state,” he notes. “We have data on harvest pressure and there obviously are areas that are getting hit hard, but before we proceed with any proposals, we want to make an assessment on hunter and landowner attitudes regarding antler restrictions.”
- In the six counties that have been under the experimental buck antler restrictions, continue those regulations indefinitely with some modifications. TPWD is discussing adding a second buck to the bag limit, but at least one of the two bucks must have an unbranched antler. The agency is considering dropping the restriction requiring at least six points on one antler since bucks of that size will typically surpass the 13-inch inside spread minimum anyway.
- Consolidation of doe day categories. Currently, TPWD offers seven different sets of doe day combinations, including no days, four days, nine days, 16 days, 23 days, 23-plus days and full season. Wildlife biologists are suggesting consolidating doe days in 36 counties and cutting the options back to no days, four days, 16 days, 23 plus days or full season doe hunting. They also are looking at eliminating doe day restrictions in 33 counties, mostly in the Panhandle.
- Simplifying the aggregate buck-bag restriction in one-buck and two-buck counties. This proposal would mean hunters could take a buck in three different one-buck-only counties or they could take a buck in a one-buck-only county and two bucks in counties having a two-buck limit.
- Creation of an appeals process for deer permit programs.
- Prohibition of hunting by remote control. This issue centers on the use of Internet technology as it relates to the taking of wildlife resources.
- Removal of Hunt and Washington counties from the list of counties where the use of dogs to trail wounded deer is prohibited.
- Extend Managed Lands Deer Permit program to include mule deer. This potential proposal would allow landowners under an approved wildlife management plan to enter voluntarily in a habitat-based permit program, which would allow greater flexibility in managing mule deer harvest. With this program, permit holders could hunt from the first Saturday in November through the end of the current regular mule deer season. In the Panhandle, the current season runs from the Saturday before Thanksgiving for 16 days. In the Southwest Panhandle, the current season runs for nine days beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving, while in the Trans Pecos, the current season runs from the last Saturday in November for 16 days.
- Several potential proposals that would consolidate and standardize turkey hunting regulations, including: standardizing the spring season length in the eastern and western halves of the state; standardizing the season length and bag composition for fall turkey seasons; and implementing youth-only spring turkey seasons for Rio Grande turkey.
- TPWD is also looking at the possibility of opening fall and spring seasons for Rio Grande turkey in Cameron and Zapata counties.
Potential Freshwater Fishing Regulation Proposals
Lake Nasworthy (Tom Green County)
- Fisheries biologists are looking into changing harvest regulations for red drum from the current 20-inch minimum length limit and daily bag limit of three fish, to no length and no bag limit to allow for maximized harvest of red drum. TPWD will not be managing red drum at Lake Nasworthy due to the shutting down of the power plant facility there, which will likely result in water temperatures too low to maintain red drum.
North and South Arms of the Concho River (Tom Green County)
- Define waters (North Concho from O.C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam and South Concho from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam) that are covered by special regulations for blue and channel catfish (no minimum length limit and pole and line only angling) and where statewide regulations (12-inch minimum length limit and no gear restrictions) are in effect (South Concho above Lone Wolf dam)
Toledo Bend Reservoir
- Remove 12-inch minimum length limit for spotted bass. Limit will be the same as statewide limit (no minimum).
Potential Coastal Fishing Regulation Proposals
- Coastal fisheries will be scoping the issue of live mollusk and harvest of other inter-tidal species along the Texas coast. The regulatory options which will be considered include area and seasonal closures, bag limits, and additions to the list of species which require a commercial non-game permit.
When the proposed regulations are published in the Texas Register, public comment about these issues may be made to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, by phoning (800) 792-1112 or by visiting the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/). **
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