Special Youth-Only Hunting Seasons Create Opportunities, Memories

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

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AUSTIN— Starting with Saturday’s opening of squirrel season, young hunters can get a jump start on the 2015-16 Texas fall hunting seasons, with more special youth-only weekend hunting seasons on the horizon. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists say range conditions and wildlife populations are ripe for success in the field.

This weekend’s youth squirrel hunting season in East Texas in advance of the Oct. 1 general season opener provides mentoring opportunities for the next generation of hunters for this Pineywoods tradition.

Likewise, young waterfowlers will get first crack at ducks in the Panhandle and South Duck Zone the weekend of Oct. 24-25. TPWD has also set aside the weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1 as special youth-only seasons for white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey statewide, and for waterfowl in the North Duck Zone, to encourage adults to share the hunting experience with the next generation of hunters.

The statewide special youth-only hunting weekend for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey is open to licensed youth 16 years of age or younger. Hunting for ducks, mergansers and coots during the youth-only waterfowl season is open to youngsters 15 years of age or younger and no state or federal waterfowl endorsements (stamps) are required. Popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl hunting along the coast will be open for the special youth-only season.

A Special Youth Hunting License ($7) is required for all hunting activities and may be purchased at any one of TPWD’s 28 field offices, more than 50 state parks and at over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/buy or by phone at 1-800-895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please note that here is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction but multiple items can be purchased during a single transaction occasion for the $5 fee. The online transaction system is available 24/7.

Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season can be found in the 2015-2016 Outdoor Annual, available in booklet form at license retailers and digitally online at www.outdoorannual.com . Hunters and anglers can also download the free 2015-2016 Outdoor Annual mobile app on their Apple or Android devices.

In addition to the special youth-only weekend seasons, select state parks and wildlife management areas are conducting mentored hunting workshops designed to introduce and educate beginning hunters and their mentors to the hunting experience. These workshops are followed by a hunt on the area. Mentored Hunting Permits (MHP) required for these workshops are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and are only valid for a specific public hunting unit and the corresponding workshop dates. A person may participate in a designated hunt under an MHP only after completing the mandatory mentored hunting workshop, has been authorized by the department to participate in hunting activities and is accompanied by a designated mentor. More information about this program is available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/mentored_hunting_workshops/ .

TPWD also offers adults accompanied by young hunters the chance to take the first shots on one of the state’s premier wildlife management areas. The Chaparral WMA holds an adult/youth dove and quail hunt on Oct. 17-18. For more information call 830-676-3413.

Hunter education certification is strongly recommended for young hunters, but if not certified they must be accompanied by someone who is at least 18, who is certified or exempt. In Texas, the minimum age that a young hunter may be certified is 9. All hunters 17 and older born after Sept. 1, 1971, are required to have successfully completed a certified hunter education course in order to legally hunt in Texas. A list of upcoming hunter education classes and options for certification is available on the TPWD Web site.

Additional information and resources about youth hunting opportunities is available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/youth_hunting/ .