TPWD Adds 40 Counties to Special Buck Harvest Rules

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701,

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AUSTIN, Texas — Deer hunters in 40 counties in East and Central Texas will be under new special buck harvest regulations this fall as part of changes to this year’s hunting and fishing regulations adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

In addition, the commission legalized bowfishing for catfish on an experimental basis for one year, directed staff to create a habitat-based voluntary management incentive program for upland game birds and eliminated the trophy tarpon tagging requirements. All hunting and fishing related regulatory changes will take effect Sept. 1.

Antler restriction regulations currently in effect in 21 counties in the Oak Prairie ecoregion have been effective in improving the age structure of the buck herd, increasing hunter opportunity, and encouraging landowners and hunters to become more actively involved in better habitat management, according to state wildlife biologists.

Under the regulation, a lawful buck is defined as any buck having at least one unbranched antler or an inside antler spread of at least 13 inches. The bag limit in the affected counties would be two lawful bucks, no more than one of which may have an inside spread of greater than 13 inches.

Counties affected by this regulation include:** Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Burleson*, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of IH 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of IH 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of IH 35), Upshur, Williamson and Wood counties.

Additional alterations and new regulations include:

  • Although not a regulatory change, a voluntary Managed Lands Upland Game Bird Program was approved that will create opportunities for private landowners who actively manage for upland game birds (Rio Grande turkey, quail, pheasant, lesser prairie-chicken, and chachalaca). For this effort, the commission instructed the staff to continue to develop a habitat-focused program to encourage landowner cooperatives and conservation and habitat development on large scales, provide assistance in obtaining support through federal Farm Bill programs, promote use of specialized habitat management equipment, and recognize good upland game bird stewardship.
  • Creating a minimum length limit of 80 inches in place of the current tarpon tagging requirement. This would allow retention of a potential state record tarpon, while protecting fish that fall below the current record.
  • New alligator hunting regulations. Outside of the 22 counties in southeast Texas where alligators have traditionally been hunted, there will be a recreational season from April 1 — June 30, during which alligators may be taken on private property under a general hunting license. The bag limit is one alligator per person per year and the use of firearms would be legal; however, firearms may not be used from, on, in, across, or over public waters. Additionally, hunters upon harvest would be required to complete and submit to the department a hide-tag report and purchase a department-issued alligator hide tag at a cost of $20. Regulations in the 22 southeast Texas counties will remain unchanged.
  • Consolidating Upton County under a four-deer bag limit.
  • Prohibiting harvest of largetooth sawfish to eliminate confusion in distinguishing between the federally-protected smalltooth sawfish
  • A change similar to the new tarpon rule will allow a person to keep one black drum of greater than 52 inches in length per day.
  • Reducing the possession limit for flounder taken under a recreational license to match the daily bag limit of 10 fish.
  • Naming tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) a game fish and create a minimum size of 17 inches and daily bag limit of 3 fish (6 in possession). This rule is similar to what other states have adopted and since tripletail females reach reproductive maturity at about 17 inches; this would provide protection through at least an initial spawning cycle.”
  • Increasing minimum length limits on largemouth bass in 250-acre Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County) to 18 inches. The change is necessary because Marine Creek Reservoir is involved in the Operation World Record research project where coded-wire tagged largemouth bass are stocked and their growth monitored for a minimum of five years. The stocked bass are ShareLunker offspring and are valuable, considering the limited number that will be produced and their importance to the project.
  • Adding baitfish restrictions in Kinney County identical to those in 17 other counties in that area where bait fish are restricted to common carp, fathead minnows, gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners, goldfish, Mexican tetra, Rio Grande cichlid, silversides (Atherinidae family), and sunfish (Lepomis). The restrictions were promulgated to protect endangered pupfish (Cyprinodon) in the western Texas. The change also protects the Devils River minnow, which only occurs in Val Verde and Kinney counties.

Hunters and anglers are urged to check the specific rules for these changes in the upcoming 2006-2007 Outdoor Annual, available in August.

* Correction, April 10, 2006: The original version of this news release failed to list Burleson County. The correct number of added counties is 40, not 39. (Return to corrected item.)

** Correction, April 11, 2006: The original version of this paragraph began “Additional counties being considered under this regulation ...þ”. That portion has been edited for clarity. The regulation has been adopted. (Return to corrected item.)