|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-06-27                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
June 27, 2005
Recent Legislation Affects Texas Wildlife, Parks
AUSTIN, Texas -- New limited-entry management programs for the Texas oyster and Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries, changes in game bird stamps hunters are required to buy, creation of an all-terrain vehicle trail program and new or clarified enforcement powers for game wardens are among the outcomes of bills passed by the 79th Texas Legislature.
The deadline for Gov. Rick Perry to sign or veto bills was June 19, and a number of bills that became law affect the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, its constituents and the state's fish and wildlife resources. Below are descriptions of selected bills.
The descriptions below do not constitute legal definitions and are solely intended to provide brief summaries of new legislation. For general information on most new laws that affect hunting and fishing this fall, see the Texas Outdoor Annual booklet, available free in early August wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Unless otherwise noted below, all new laws take effect Sept. 1.
--HB 505 -- This bill makes it a Class C misdemeanor to discharge a firearm across a private property line while hunting or engaging in recreational shooting. The bill contains a provision so there is no violation if the person shooting owns both sides of the property line or has obtained written landowner permission.
--HB 506 -- Currently, when private property becomes flooded by a public river or stream, that land can then be used for hunting. This bill requires a person to obtain landowner consent in order to hunt any wild animal or wild bird on private land that has been submerged by public water when the land is conspicuously marked as privately owned by a sign or signs.
--HB 883 -- Under the Texas Artificial Reef Act of 1989, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department administers the Texas Artificial Reef Program on sites permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This bill allows private citizens, groups, and/or associations to deploy reef material under guidelines and rules established by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. It would also allow law enforcement agencies that have confiscated a derelict watercraft to transfer it to TPWD for use as an artificial reef. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on May 27.
--HB 942 -- This bill provides that any boat 35 years old or older will be included in the antique boat classification, which gives boat owners greater flexibility with the placement of identification decals. The current definition for an antique boat covers any boat manufactured prior to 1968.
--HB 1076 -- As a token of appreciation for the sacrifices being made by active duty Texas service members, this bill directs the TPW Commission to waive all fees for hunting and fishing licenses for Texas residents currently on active military duty. A Texas resident is defined as a person who has resided continuously in the state for more than six months prior to applying for a license.
--HB 1636 -- Currently, the Parks and Wildlife Code defines "resident" as an individual who has resided continuously in Texas for more than six months immediately before applying for a hunting, fishing, or other TPWD license. However, there are no requirements for documenting whether or not a person is a bona fide Texas resident. This bill gives the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to establish the proof required to demonstrate residency for the purpose of obtaining a department license or permit. This bill was technically effective when the governor signed it on June 18, but as a practical matter it won't take effect until the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the proposed requirements at the Commission Meeting on Aug. 25.
--HB 1959 -- This bill will provide an enforcement tool to deter unlawful hunting of deer with dogs in certain East Texas counties where the activity has historically occurred. It is not intended to prevent lawful hunting, including trailing a wounded deer in counties where that is legal. The bill applies to 22 East Texas counties, including Angelina, Hardin, Harris, Harrison, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, Tyler and Walker counties. The bill authorizes the department to specify the type of firearm a person may have in possession during an open deer season, if that person is hunting on someone else's property with a dog. The bill imposes the same penalties on hunting deer with dogs as are currently imposed for hunting game animals at night, hunting from a vehicle on a public roadway, and hunting with artificial light-three examples of violations which decreased dramatically in recent years after penalties were increased.
--HB 2025 -- This bill transfers jurisdiction of the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site-National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg to the Texas Historical Commission. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department currently administers the museum as part of the state park system. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on June 18, and TPWD is in the process of developing an agreement with THC to transfer operation of the museum as directed by the legislation.
--HB 2026 -- This bill repeals some ambiguous language and clarifies statutes related to taking wildlife resources, possessing wildlife eggs, and disposing of seized wildlife, including exotic livestock and fowl. It also repeals the alligator hunting license and allows a person to take an alligator with a general hunting license. The bill repeals the maximum number of acres for a private bird hunting area and clarifies area sign placement. Internet hunting is banned under the provisions of this bill with a fine of $200 to $2000 and/or 180 days in jail. A person may not engage in computer-assisted remote hunting of any animal or bird or provide or operate facilities for computer-assisted remote hunting if the animal or bird being hunted is located in Texas. The bill also provides a $25 to $500 penalty for a person leaving public or private water who does not remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant clinging to the person's boat, trailer or vehicle.
--HB 2027 -- Currently, a person may legally hunt state-owned riverbeds in Texas, but this bill makes it illegal to shoot a rifle, handgun or arrow from the bed or bank of a navigable river or stream in Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Kenedy, Llano, Maverick, Real, Uvalde, or Zavala County. It does allow continued hunting in these areas with a shotgun, as long as the hunter is using a shotgun loaded with shot or buckshot (not slugs).
--HB 2032 -- The bill broadens the scope of the Operation Game Thief (OGT) Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to better support the efforts of game wardens to stop natural resource crimes. For the first time, it allows OGT to consider reward claims for phone tips involving boating while intoxicated (BWI), environmental crimes enforcement and several other offenses. OGT operates a toll free phone hotline, (800) 792-GAME, that allows citizens to report wildlife crimes in Texas, and callers can receive cash rewards if convictions result. This bill amends the law to allow OGT to consider a reward claim for many other violations wardens routinely enforce, including those related to shrimping, oystering, water pollution, and solid waste dumping, antiquities destruction or damage, arson and criminal mischief, criminal trespass, theft, tampering with identification numbers, tampering with governmental record, boating while intoxicated, intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, and payment of sales tax on boats and boat motors.
--HB 2037 -- This bill permits game wardens to seize personal property and sell, destroy or use it if the property owner is convicted of hunting on private property without landowner consent. Property that may be seized includes items such as a firearm, knife, spotlight, GPS unit, radio, mobile phone or other item, but not a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel. Under current law, personal property may be seized for some crimes, but if the violator crosses onto private property and the landowner files criminal charges for hunting without landowner consent, there is no provision for seizing the hunter's property.
--HB 2555 -- This bill provides a legal defense to prosecution for people who act to show mercy by humanely dispatching a suffering animal that has been left mortally wounded by a non-hunting incident or appears to be a diseased animal or an animal that poses a risk of harm to themselves, people, or other wildlife. Currently, a person who finds such an animal or bird can be prohibited from killing it because it may be out of season or because the individual lacks a legal weapon. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on May 24. Proposed rules for implementing this new law will be adopted at the TPW Commission Meeting on Aug. 25
--HB 3024 -- This bill amends the Agriculture Code to facilitate the sale of fish by the owner of a private facility to manage fish in a private pond. (Current law does not allow the sale of fish without an appropriate license issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or an Aquaculture License issued by the Texas Department of Agriculture.) Under the terms of this bill, fish must be collected and purchased by an aquaculture license holder. Sales must be documented within thirty days by an invoice submitted to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by the purchaser.
--SB 272 -- This bill establishes a license moratorium for Texas commercial oyster licenses due to overcapitalization (too many boats working the water). It essentially creates for commercial oyster fishing the same type of limited-entry management approach that has been successful in recent years for bay shrimping and other Texas fisheries. A central concept of the limited-entry strategy is to reduce the number of boats working the fishery over time through attrition. This happens when TPWD retires a license after a boat leaves the business, thus reducing overall fishing pressure and creating more economically viable conditions for those who remain in the fishery. The bill authorizes regulated issuance and renewal of commercial oyster licenses based on historical participation in the fishery. It is needed because the commercial oyster fishery is the only Texas inshore open-access commercial fishery resulting in economic instability. This is a particular concern during high Texas oyster production years that correspond with poor production in other states along the Gulf of Mexico. In those years, new entrants from out of state can enter the fishery to take advantage of high production, thus reducing profits for traditional Texas fishery participants. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on May 20.
--SB 454 -- This bill establishes a license moratorium for Texas gulf shrimp licenses due to overcapitalization (too many boats working the water). It essentially institutes for the Texas gulf shrimp fishery a limited-entry management approach similar to that which has been beneficial for bay shrimping and other Texas fisheries. The industry has suffered in recent years from new entrants in the fishery and market conditions as well as increased cost of production. Furthermore, a moratorium on shrimp licenses in federal waters (beyond nine nautical miles offshore) is anticipated. The result of the federal moratorium will be to drive more shrimpers into the gulf waters; thus a license moratorium for Texas gulf shrimping is necessary to further limit the destabilization of the market for existing participants. SB 454 allows regulated issuance and renewal of commercial gulf shrimp licenses based on historical participation in the fishery in order to provide greater economic stability. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on May 20.
--SB 489 -- This bill authorizes the TPW Commission to adopt rules to revoke and suspend boat dealer licenses for rules infractions. It also requires boat dealers, distributors, or manufacturers to enter into a license agreement with TPWD and it redefines "dealer" to eliminate the requirement that a dealer be at an established or permanent place of business. The department currently has authority to issue marine dealer licenses, but there is no procedure to revoke a license.
--SB 804 -- This bill strengthens TPWD's legal claim to collect money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and other licenses and permits that support conservation work. One key feature of the bill is to prevent a significant financial loss of conservation revenue to TPWD in the event of a license deputy bankruptcy. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on June 17.
--SB 1192 -- This bill reorganizes the existing three Texas game bird stamps-the white-winged dove stamp, waterfowl stamp, and turkey stamp-into two new stamps. The new $7 Migratory Bird Stamp will cover all migratory game birds, such as ducks, geese, doves, and cranes. The new $7 Upland Game Bird Stamp covers all resident game birds, such as turkey, quail, and pheasants. The new configuration would provide funding to all species currently covered by the existing stamps, as well address concerns about declining species like mourning doves and quail. The new stamps will enable the department to improve its ability to measure hunter participation, and harvest of a number of these species. The stamp reorganization would provide much-needed flexibility for TPWD to use stamp funds where the greatest species and habitat needs lie. For example, research is needed for mourning doves, which population surveys indicate have been declining for years. However, white-winged dove stamp funds currently cannot be used for mourning dove research. The stamp reorganization is also expected to provide funding and flexibility needed to research and address quail population declines. This bill was technically effective when the governor signed it on June 17, but as a practical matter it won't take effect until new season hunting and fishing licenses go on sale Aug. 15.
--SB 1311 -- This bill establishes, within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a program to provide a system of trails and recreational areas for use by off-highway vehicles. The program is to be self-funded through the purchase of decals, fines levied for offenses relating to the operation of off-highway vehicles, and funds and grants received from the federal government and other sources determined by the department. The legislative analysis for the bill estimated nearly 60,000 off-highway vehicles were sold in 2001 in Texas and about 1.3 million users of off-highway vehicles and off-highway motorcycles in the state. However, Texas has only about six sites specifically intended for off-road use, and none of them use a management program. The bill envisions designated trails to allow off-road recreation while protecting natural habitats by limiting off-road vehicle usage in sensitive areas.
The full text of all bills is available on the Texas Legislature Online Web site.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KD]
June 27, 2005
Texas Wildlife Research Highlighted in New Report
AUSTIN, Texas -- Quail, wild turkeys, doves, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, coyotes, alligators, fish and snakes all have one thing in common -- these species and others are the focus for research by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Wildlife Division.
In the publication "Wildlife Research Highlights 2005," the division describes 108 research project proposals that received funding through the Wildlife Division for fiscal year 2005 and explains how the research is being done.
"We put out this report every two years to inform the public, our staff, our commissioners, and our conservation partners in Texas and around the country about what we're doing in wildlife research," said Ron George, TPWD Wildlife Division research coordinator. "Our biologists do quality work on their own or in cooperation with universities."
The primary goals of Wildlife Division research, as stated in the publication, are to seek answers for important management questions, train staff, expand scientific knowledge, publish results and inform the public.
Most of the more than $1,750,000 in research funds spent in 2004-2005 came from Texas hunting license revenue and Texas waterfowl, white-winged dove and wild turkey stamps. About one-third of research funding comes from federal excise taxes, federal endangered species funds, and federal State Wildlife Grants.
"We need answers on how to best manage wildlife resources, and to get reliable answers you have to allocate funding for research," said George. "As time goes on, things change: habitat changes, technology changes. There are always new things to look at in wildlife management and new ways to look at them."
TPWD works in conjunction with several universities in research. On some projects, TPWD personnel take the lead, and university researchers lead others. When university staff takes the lead, TPWD biologists serve as field advisors, graduate committee staff, and publication co-authors.
To receive a free copy of "Wildlife Research Highlights 2005," mail your request to Wildlife Information, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, Texas 78744, or call (512) 389-4505.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KD]
June 27, 2005
Texas Wetlands Project Receives National Award
GALVESTON, Texas -- A Texas effort to restore hundreds of acres of ecologically important wetlands in the Delehide Cove area of West Galveston Bay will receive one of two National Wetland Conservation Awards to be bestowed this year at a June 30 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Delehide Cove team received a $939,862 grant from the National Wetlands Conservation Grants Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2000. The grant, along with an additional federal contribution of $50,000 from the USFWS Coastal Program, was matched with funds and in-kind contributions from state and local sources that included the Texas General Land Office's Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) Program, Galveston Bay Foundation, Galveston Bay Estuary Program, Pirates Homeowners Association, Fish America Foundation, Restore Americas Estuaries, NOAA Fisheries, Blackard Development, Reliant Energy and Texas GenCo. A total of more than $2 million was provide from these federal and state contributors to protect and restore the area's coastal wetland habitat.
Approximately 8,100 linear feet of sand-filled geotextile tube breakwaters were constructed to protect existing intertidal marsh, tidal bayou, and subtidal flats from erosion. One year after construction, 200 acres of habitat have been protected from erosion, 2.4 acres of sand flat have been restored, 3.2 acres of seagrass habitat have been enhanced and 48 acres of salt marsh and open water complex have been restored or enhanced. A total of 250 acres of estuarine marsh complex in the West Bay area of Galveston Bay were protected, and another 55 acres were restored or enhanced.
"It's a well-deserved recognition of a partnership between federal, state and non-profit organizations to achieve a conservation goal," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D. and TPWD coastal fisheries division director. "I'm pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized all that effort on a national level."
Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives two wetland conservation awards, one to a team and one to an individual. Matt Hogan, acting director of USFWS, will present the awards this year, and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton is expected to participate in the ceremony.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
June 27, 2005
TPWD Stocks 4.6 Million Striped Bass Into Texas Lakes
ATHENS, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has just completed a successful striped bass spawning and stocking season.
TPWD Inland Fisheries Division personnel produced and stocked 4.6 million striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings into 42 lakes. An additional 2.6 million striped bass and hybrid striped bass fry were stocked into three lakes.
"This number of fish is smack dab in the middle of average production levels prior to the onset of golden alga," said Gerald Kurten, hatchery program director for catfishes and striped bass. "We are proud to be back where we should be in spite of the fact that golden alga continues to be problematic for both the Dundee and Possum Kingdom hatcheries. This year's stockings represent about 80 percent of the requests from TPWD Inland Fisheries managers. We stocked all the lakes for which the managers requested fish, but a few of the larger requests were not completely met."
"Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is keenly aware of the importance of the striped bass and hybrid striped bass fisheries to local economies," said Gary Saul, TPWD hatcheries chief. "Our staff works around the clock for weeks to produce and stock these fish in order to sustain this valuable fishery."
The fingerlings were produced at the A.E. Wood Hatchery at San Marcos, the Possum Kingdom Hatchery near Graford and the Dundee Hatchery near Electra.
The process began with the collection of striped bass males and egg-laden females from the Trinity River at the foot of Livingston Dam in mid-April. The fish were transported in tank trailers to the hatcheries, where TPWD fisheries biologists and technicians continuously monitored the females to determine when the eggs they carried were mature and ready to be spawned.
Technicians then stripped the eggs from each female into a container while milt from one or more males was added. The eggs and milt were mixed using a turkey feather, and the fertilized eggs were then placed into hatching jars. Large striped bass females are capable of producing as many as a million eggs.
After the fry hatched, most were reared in outdoor ponds to fingerling size, about 1.5 inches long, before being stocked into lakes.
Complicating the process was the fact that the water supply at the Possum Kingdom and Dundee hatcheries contained high levels of golden alga, a microscopic organism that can produce toxins capable of killing fish of any size. Hatchery personnel monitored the level of golden alga toxins continuously during the spawning and grow-out periods and took measures to ensure the fish survived.
Successful management of fingerlings ponds requires constant attention to water quality parameters such as temperature, pH and ammonia concentrations. High pH and ammonia concentrations are the key to keeping golden alga at bay in hatchery ponds, but they are also potentially lethal to young striped bass, so hatchery staff must perform a balancing act to maintain the appropriate conditions in the ponds. Fluctuations in temperature and cloud cover also have an impact, and the staff has to consider how future weather will affect the ponds. When golden alga is present, the fish can be lost at any time during pond production, so constant vigilance on the part of the hatchery staff and predictable weather are the keys to success.
Striped bass are anadromous like salmon in that they spawn in fresh water and then migrate out to salt water. Striped bass were first introduced into Texas in 1967, when they were stocked into lakes Navarro Mills and Bardwell. They can survive in fresh water, and except in Lake Texoma, they normally do not produce enough offspring naturally to maintain their population. TPWD stocks fish to supplement the natural production and provide additional fishing opportunity.
"The way our hatcheries do the spawning absolutely makes them the leaders in this field," says Roger McCabe, who retired in June 2005 after heading the Texas striped bass program for a quarter of a century. "As far as stocking for maintaining fisheries is concerned, we have the largest striped bass and hybrid striped bass stocking program in the country."
Hybrid Striped Bass Stockings, 2005
--Wichita: 18,666
--Lone Star: 14,328
--Nasworthy: 6,933
--Bridgeport: 71,788
--Tawakoni: 189,557
--Victor Braunig: 19,517
--Belton (Bell County): 124,081
--Richland-Chambers: 413,686
--Mackenzie: 9,214
--Walter E. Long: 6,073
--Conroe: 201,367
--Fort Phantom Hill: 63,400
--Ray Hubbard: 216,814
--Cooper Reservoir: 190,388
--Calaveras: 46,643
--Lake Georgetown: 6,475
--Cedar Creek Reservoir: 215,660
--Proctor: 67,524
--Lewisville: 148,670
--Somerville: 101,175
--Medina: 81,265
--Benbrook: 54,628
--Palestine: 101,117
--Graham: 12,867
--Bardwell: 47,610
--Casa Blanca: 16,061
Striped Bass Stockings, 2005
--E. V. Spence: 37,243
--Possum Kingdom: 156,355
--Buffalo Springs: 3,686
--Whitney: 332,999
--Kemp (Baylor County): 149,771
--Granbury: 125,155
--Livingston: 526,148
--Amistad: 318,908
--Lavon: 107,008
--Canyon: 40,997
--Tawakoni: 100,211
--Buchanan: 150,100
--Travis: 96,000

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KD]
June 27, 2005
Texas Gets Hunter Education/Recruitment Grants
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently received a $6,000 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation for hunter education recruitment.
The grant enables the department to evaluate the effectiveness of the "Hunter Education Deferral" program, which allows hunters age 17 and older to hunt for as much as one additional year without completing hunter education, if a licensed adult hunter accompanies them. The grant also allows hunter education staff to look at ways to make hunter education even more convenient. Currently, hunter education volunteer instructors and staff teach over 4,400 courses each year including at least one in every county.
The NSSF is the trade association for the firearms and recreational shooting sports industry. The grants, totaling $422,868.50, were made possible through the NSSF's Hunter Heritage Partnership program, which was established to help state wildlife agencies enhance opportunities for hunting.
Texas was one of 15 states to receive a grant this year. This is the third year of the NSSF grant program and the second year that Texas has received a grant.
For more information about TPWD's Hunter Education program, visit the Web site or call (800) 792-1112, ext. 62.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
June 27, 2005
Junior Boater Program Teaches Young Kids Water Safety
Extra! Read All Aboat It!
AUSTIN, Texas -- Though it is only three years old, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department water and boater safety program reaches more than 10,000 children per year.
Junior Boater was started for kids younger than age 12 in an effort to reach those who are not old enough to be eligible for Boater Safety certification.
"We wanted to make children aware that the water is great fun but there are also dangers that kids need to watch out for and take precautions against," said Jack Dyess, TPWD's statewide boater education coordinator.
These precautions are taught by the program, which requires kids to succeed at four of the following tasks to attain Junior Boater certification:
1. Throwing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) to a target.
2. Completing a PFD relay, where kids are on teams and try to find a PFD that fits them best, fasten it on, and then tag their teammate who does the same.
3. Identifying at least two items they should have when leaving shore.
4. Identifying water-related items as safe or hazardous and why.
5. Learning about weight distribution in a boat.
6. Identifying water pollutants.
7. Learning basic boating directions and terminology.
8. Being able to recognize the intended movement of a watercraft based on signals.
TPWD is hoping that leadership-type groups that take the class, like boy scouts, girl scouts and 4-H groups will fan out across Texas and teach the course to others. TPWD loans out all supplies, including life jackets and manuals with directions for instructors. All anyone has to do is request a kit and specify a time and place.
"Children have the ears of their families and friends. This is a way for us to reach a lot of people with basic safe water and boating messages," Dyess said.
For more information about how to set up a seminar, call (800) 792-1112, extension 4938.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
June 27, 2005
Texas Whitewing Zone Changes Accepted
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this week announced that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee has accepted the Texas proposal to expand the Special Whitewing Dove Zone, adding a new portion of land west of I-35 and south of U. S. Highway 90 near San Antonio.
This means a 20 percent increase in the size of the special zone that is open to white-winged dove afternoon-only hunting the first two Saturdays and Sundays in September. Also new is a bag limit increase from 10 to12 birds, allowing not more than four mourning doves and two white-tipped doves.
Although the change drops the mourning dove bag limit from five birds to four during the special season, it does mean more hunting opportunity along the Highway 90 corridor. Dove hunting starts on Sept. 1 just north Highway 90 in the Central Zone, but South Zone dove hunters until now had to wait until the first Friday after Sept. 20 to hunt south of the highway.
"We've seen a huge increase in whitewings in this section of country and hunters north of Highway 90 see whitewings trading back and forth across the highway and can't understand why they can't hunt both sides," said Vernon Bevill, TPWD small game and habitat assessment program director.
"The real issue with the Service has been growing concern for mourning doves," Bevill added, "which appear to be declining somewhat range-wide, even though there are still several hundred million of them, making them one of the 10 most abundant birds in North America. We have begun collaboration with other dove hunting states to band mourning doves and develop better databases to clearly understand changes in populations to see what is really happening. By gaining the opportunity to expand the Special Whitewing Zone we are at least able to offer some added opportunity to hunters asking for this change."
TPWD will be actively monitoring hunting in the area to determine that the additional opportunity is not adversely impacting mourning doves. Hunters will have to pay closer attention to what species of dove they are targeting to assure they do not take more than four mourning doves.
"We are pleased that our staff put together a good, science-based, proposal that was acceptable to the Service Regulations Committee," said Mike Berger, TPWD wildlife division director.
"The process requires that we run our proposals through the Central Flyway Council for endorsement, and that took place back in March. Staff recently worked with the Flyway and the Service to modify the proposal into a more acceptable recommendation by reducing the overall area of the request. That helped eliminate concerns that too many mourning doves would be taken in an area where some nesting effort extends into September. Until we have a better understanding of what is going on with mourning doves, we have to be sensitive to err on the side of the resource."
Berger went on to say that the new Migratory Game Bird Stamp that rolls the waterfowl and white-winged dove stamps into one stamp covering all migratory game birds this fall will give TPWD some additional funding over time to direct toward research on mourning doves. This should improve science and provide better approaches for future game bird management.
Since the Texas Legislature passed SB 1192 in the recent session, all dove hunters will be required to purchase the new $7 Migratory Game Bird Stamp this fall. However, there will be no practical change for a large percentage of dove hunters who were already buying the white-winged stamp.
"As it was, we were already seeing more than 60 percent of dove hunters buying the Whitewing Dove Stamp, probably because whitewing numbers have grown so much and spread so far that hunters were concerned about staying legal," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director.
Cook said the new stamp gives TPWD added flexibility to address mourning dove needs because the agency could not spend whitewing stamp funds on needed mourning dove work.
"Hunters should thank the game bird hunting conservation groups that supported game bird stamp reorganization in the recent legislative session, including Ducks Unlimited, Dove Sportsman's Society, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited, and Texas Audubon."
The recommendations approved by the USFWS regulations committee still must be published in the Federal Register for another 30-day comment period. If they are approved, the 2005 dove season will be as follows: North Zone -- Sept. 1-Oct. 30, with a 15-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; Central Zone -- Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and reopening Dec. 26 -- Jan. 4, with a 12-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; South Zone -- Sept. 23-Nov. 10 and reopening Dec. 26-Jan. 15 with a 12 bird bag but not more than two white-tipped doves; Special South Texas Whitewing Zone -- Sept. 3-4 and Sept. 10-11 afternoon only, with a 12 bird aggregate bag including not more than four mourning doves and two white-tipped doves.
The USFWS has also indicated there will be a September teal season this year but since there were weather related delays in some surveyed areas of Canada, the final recommendation will not be made for possibly another two weeks. That means if the Service approves a nine-day season with a four-bird bag the season will run from Sept. 17-25 and if they approve 16 days the season will run from Sept. 10-25. Only teal species are legal during this season, which has a bag limit of four birds.