TPW Seeks Public Input on Hunting Proposals

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A unique set of provisions for harvesting buck deer in six counties tops this year's slate of proposed changes to Texas hunting and fishing regulations. Texas Parks and Wildlife will be seeking input on these and other recommendations at a series of upcoming public meetings scheduled around the state in the weeks ahead.

If approved by the TPW Commission at its April 4 hearing in Austin, the proposed regulation would define a legal buck deer in Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Lee and Washington counties as either:

  • A deer having a hardened antler protruding through the skin and at least one unbranched antler or
  • A deer having one antler with 6 or more points or
  • A deer having an inside spread measurement between the main beams of 13 inches or greater.

The proposal contends that hunting pressure on buck deer is intense in the affected counties. For example, according to LaGrange-based TPW wildlife biologist Bob Carroll, during the past 30 years 74 to 91 percent of the bucks harvested were between 1.5 and 2.5 years of age.

"Those counties have experienced a high degree of hunting pressure during the last 30 years, which has resulted in an ongoing over harvest of young buck deer," said Gary Graham, TPW Wildlife Division Director. "Nearly half of the buck harvest in those counties has been yearlings, which creates an imbalance in the deer population that could cause long term problems."

The average spread of a 3.5-year-old buck is 13 inches and the approximate distance between the tips of a buck deer's ears is 13 inches. The proposal would be expected to protect about 65 percent of the buck population annually, allowing more deer to mature and thereby create a more balanced herd. The proposal would anticipate maintaining this definition for 3 years.

Each year, TPW addresses resource management needs through a public scoping process designed to gather input from constituents before making regulation changes. Proposed changes focus on simplification or clarification of regulations, resource enhancement and hunting and fishing opportunity. The public has until April 4 -- when the commission meets again to consider final adoption of the 2002-2003 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation -- to review and comment on this year's proposed changes.

In addition to the special buck harvest proposal, the public is invited to comment on the following:

  • Possum Kingdom Reservoir -- A change in the bag limit for striped bass from five to two fish daily and an increase in the minimum size limit for largemouth bass from 14 to 16 inches.
  • Border Waters -- A recommendation to enforce Texas bag and size limits on all species landed in Texas or possessed in Texas waters. This proposal addresses a concern about excessive harvest of fish caught in Texas waters (such as Sabine Lake) and claimed under more liberal Louisiana bag limits.
  • Purtis Creek State Park Lake -- This proposal would discontinue a five-year experiment involving the only harvest regulation in the state for sunfish -- a 7-inch minimum size limit and 25 fish per day bag limit.
  • Gibbons Creek Reservoir -- Changing the harvest regulations for largemouth bass from catch-and-release-only to a 14-24-inch slot length limit and a five fish daily bag, of which only one 24 inches or greater could be harvested daily to allow some bass harvest and renew angler interest.
  • Brushy Creek Lake -- Protection for largemouth bass by establishing an 18-inch minimum length limit and five fish daily bag limit on this new impoundment north of Austin.
  • Coleto Creek Reservoir -- Standardizing the red drum harvest regulations to the 20-inch minimum used on all other freshwater reservoirs with red drum populations. Red drum were stocked in this lake for the first time last year.
  • Lake Alan Henry -- A proposal to change the limit for largemouth bass from an 18-inch minimum to no minimum and five fish daily bag, of which only two fish can be less than 18 inches.
  • Lake Proctor -- Changing the limit for largemouth bass from a 14-inch minimum to a 16-inch minimum to allow for increased protection from harvest of a strong year class of smaller fish.
  • Commercial Fishing License Fees -- As a first step toward balancing the interests of the state and the industries, the 20 percent fee increase is being proposed for commercial fishery licenses at this time. This follows the recommendation of a joint study of the State Auditor's Office and Comptroller of Public Accounts.
  • Buck Harvest Rules -- A set of custom buck harvest rules in Austin, Colorado, Lavaca, Fayette, Lee and Washington counties. The experimental rules would define a legal buck as having at least one unbranched antler, one antler with six or more points or an inside spread measurement of 13 inches or greater.
  • Proof of Sex -- Eliminating the requirement that the unskinned head of a harvested whitetail accompany the buck or doe for purposes of proof of sex. This change would allow hunters to "cape out" a deer in the field to preserve the quality of the deer hide for taxidermy purposes. The head would still have to accompany the carcass until it reaches its final destination.
  • Use of Dogs -- Rescinding a prohibition of the use of dogs to trail wounded deer in 11 counties in Northeast Texas.
  • Youth Season Rules -- Modifying the late youth-only season in counties where no other seasons are open to require a permit for harvesting antlerless deer if such a permit is required during the general season.
  • Spike Buck Harvest -- Making Level II Managed Lands Deer buck permits valid for spike-antlered bucks from the Saturday closest to Sept. 30 through the first day of the general season. The proposal is intended to accommodate honest mistakes by hunters targeting antlerless deer.
  • Archery Harvest -- Allowing harvest of bucks by means of archery during the archery-only open season on Level II Managed Lands Deer properties. Currently, buck deer may be harvested on these properties during the general season or before permits have been issued.
  • Doe Days -- Increasing the number of doe days in 17 Panhandle counties from 16 days. A possible change would create doe days from opening day of the general season through the first Sunday following Thanksgiving.
  • Rio Grande Turkey -- Providing a fall hunting season in Hill County.
  • Eastern Turkey -- Providing a spring hunting season in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Matagorda and Wharton counties.
  • License Log -- Options to reduce deer tagging confusion among hunters while maintaining the integrity of the statewide annual bag limit of 5 deer.
  • Public Lands Hunting -- A list of state parks being proposed for public hunts and a couple of regulation changes for hunting on public lands.

Additional information on these proposals and a complete listing of upcoming public meetings can also be found online at http://tpwd.state.tx.us. Public comment on these issues and others of interest may be made through the mail to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, or by calling (800) 792-1112 or visiting http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us and looking for the public comments link.