AUSTIN, Texas -- A statewide opening date for the Texas general deer hunting season and more youth-only hunting opportunities are among proposed changes to the state^s hunting and fishing regulations unveiled by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
State wildlife and fisheries officials presented their annual list of recommended regulations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Jan. 24. The public has until April 5 -- when the commission meets again to consider final adoption of the 2001-2002 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation -- to study and comment on the proposals.
This year^s offering continues a theme advanced by the TPW Commission several years ago of focusing on the hunting experience for youth. Young hunters were allowed to take a variety of game species -- including squirrels, waterfowl, quail, deer and turkey -- during special weekend youth-only seasons last fall. If adopted, the latest recommendation could expand the statewide youth-only weekend seasons for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey to include all weekends in October and the three weekends following the second Sunday in January.
The commission has also sought to simplify and standardize hunting and fishing rules in Texas, and this year^s proposals address those mandates. In perhaps one of the biggest departures from tradition, TPW is suggesting a new opening date for the South Zone general deer season that would create a unified statewide deer opener, the first Saturday in November. The South Zone season closure would remain the second Sunday in January.
Wildlife officials also hope to correct a nagging issue that restricts hunters in one-buck-only counties. Once a hunter uses his one-buck-only tag, he cannot hunt in any other county with a one-buck limit. A proposal would establish two one-buck limit areas east and west of Interstate 35, and hunters could take a buck from each.
Other hunting-related proposals on the table include:
Expanding spring eastern turkey hunting by opening the season in Houston, Rusk, Smith, Upshur and Wood counties.
Increase the deer bag limit in Aransas, Atascosa, Bee, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Live Oak, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr and Willacy counties from four deer (no more than two bucks) to five deer (no more than three bucks).
Increase the deer bag limit in Brown, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Mills, Mitchell, Nolan, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling and Tom Green counties from four deer (no more than two bucks) to five deer (no more than two bucks).
Expand the Landowner Assisted Management Permits program (LAMPS) to include Fannin, Hunt and Rains counties.
Allow the use of Antlerless and Spike-buck Deer Control Permits statewide from the Saturday nearest Sept. 30 through the last day of any open season in a given county.
Move the quail season opening date to the Saturday immediately preceding the opening day of the general deer season. This proposal is the result of a public petition accepted for consideration by the commission.
Open a javelina season in Archer County.
Although not as extensive as the proposed changes to hunting regulations, several proposals relating to fisheries resources are being advanced for public comment, including revisions to largemouth bass limits on three reservoirs and a new smallmouth bass limit on seven lakes.
TPW is recommending a return to the statewide standard for smallmouth bass of a 14-inch minimum length and a five-fish daily bag limit on the following reservoirs: Belton, Cisco, Greenbelt, Oak Creek, Stillhouse Hollow, White River and Whitney. Currently, these lakes restrict smallmouth harvest to a three-fish daily bag limit with an 18-inch minimum length.
On O.H. Ivie Reservoir, fisheries biologists are proposing to eliminate the minimum length (currently 18 inches) and modify the five-fish daily bag limit. Anglers would be allowed to harvest no more than two largemouth bass of less than 18 inches per day.
On Lake Sweetwater, TPW is looking at implementing a 14- to 18-inch slot length limit and five-fish daily bag limit for largemouth bass.
On Pinkston Reservoir, the proposed change would create a 14- to 21-inch slot length limit and five-fish daily bag, with only one fish greater than 21 inches.
TPW is also proposing a prohibition of trotlines, juglines and throw lines on Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett lakes.
In coastal waters, officials are proposing regulations changes for Spanish mackerel to be consistent with restrictions in federal waters. The current 14-inch minimum (total length) and seven-fish daily bag in Texas would be altered under the recommendation to a 15-fish daily bag.
The agency also seeks to make white the standard color for crab trap floats.
The public may comment on any of these proposals during upcoming public meetings to be scheduled statewide or by writing TPW, Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744, or on the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/).