Eastern Turkey Season Extension Approved

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Turkey hunters in East Texas will be able to spend more time in the woods trying to outsmart a wary gobbler beginning in the Spring of 2005, thanks to hunting season changes passed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

Recognizing the ongoing success of the eastern turkey restoration effort in the Pineywoods, the commission approved doubling the season length for eastern turkeys to 30 days with an April 1 opener. Mandatory check stations and use of shotgun-only will remain in place.

"This marks another milestone in the state's successful effort to restore the wild turkey on suitable habitat in East Texas," said Mike Berger, Ph.D. and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's wildlife division director. "The commission's charge to us has been to maximize hunting opportunity whenever that resource can sustain it."

Since 1995 when Texas' first spring eastern turkey hunting season was opened in Red River County, TPWD has maintained a conservative approach — a 14-day season, mandatory check stations, one gobbler bag limit — to give the birds ample opportunity to establish themselves in new haunts. As turkey numbers have increased and flocks expand into new areas, the agency has steadily increased hunting opportunity by opening a spring season in 42 East Texas counties.

The commission also approved adding two more counties, Hardin and Liberty, to the mix beginning in 2005 and expanding the season to encompass all of two others, Montgomery and Tyler counties.

In addition to the turkey season changes, the commission modified the late youth-only deer season to reduce confusion and increase opportunity. The changes extend the same opportunities granted youth during the early youth-only season to the late season, including the opportunity to harvest bucks where county regulations provide that option.

Other changes adopted by the commission as part of the 2004-05 Texas Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation include:

* Implementation of a 4-day doe season in eight East Texas counties where the current antlerless harvest is by permit only. Areas receiving doe days Nov. 25-28 include: Brazos, Cherokee, Gregg, Grimes, Houston, Madison, Robertson and Rusk counties.

* Re-establishing the season framework in the Panhandle for pheasants to a 30-day season to begin on the first Saturday in December.

* Implementation of fall season for Rio Grande turkey in Denton and Johnson counties.

* Implementation of a 14-18 inch slot limit for largemouth bass on San Augustine City Lake (San Augustine County).

* Implementation of an 18-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass and restricting angling to pole and line only for new Lake Pflugerville (Travis County), which is scheduled to open in 2005.

* Alteration of rules on community fishing lakes (statewide) to eliminate length limits for blue and channel catfish.

* Implementation of statewide regulations for white bass and white bass/striped bass hybrids on Lake O' the Pines (Camp, Marion, Morris, and Upshur counties) and Pat Mayse (Lamar County) and removal of the downstream tailrace areas from the boundary definitions for these two reservoirs.

* Creation of a boundary definition for Lake Murvaul (Panola County) to extend the 14-21 inch slot limit for largemouth bass to the downstream tailrace area.

* Modification of saltwater perch trap rules to incorporate degradable panels

* Inclusion of "star trap" as legal gear to capture crabs in Texas.

* Legalized the use of minnow traps in saltwater.