The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has adopted a series of changes to state hunting and fishing regulations that offer greater harvest flexibility on lands managed for mule deer and prairie chickens, while simplifying and expanding hunting opportunity in other areas.
Based on the department’s popular Managed Lands Deer Permit program that provides incentives to individuals that conduct habitat improvement projects on their property for the benefit white-tailed deer, the commission approved similar opportunities for mule deer and prairie chickens.
The new voluntary habitat-based permit programs offer landowners with an approved wildlife management plan greater flexibility in managing mule deer harvest. Permit holders could hunt from the first Saturday in November through the first Sunday in January.
A similar measure addressing long-term habitat loss impacting lesser prairie chicken populations allows a limited harvest option for properties with a wildlife management plan geared toward this species. Under the new regulation, hunting during the two-day season will occur only on managed properties in the program. There will be a two bird daily bag limit and properties in the program will have a harvest recommendation.
Another proposal offering incentives for quail management was withdrawn from consideration pending further discussion with constituent groups, landowners, hunters and other interested parties.
Among the prominent changes in hunting regulations adopted by the commission is a continuation and expansion of special buck-deer harvest regulations in 21 counties. For the 2005-06 hunting season, the department is adding a second buck to the bag limit in counties with the special antler restrictions. Those hunters will be allowed to take two bucks, but at least one must possess an unbranched antler.
In another move, the commission has simplified antlerless white-tailed deer hunting by consolidating the seven different options currently in place across the state into just three standard doe day categories. Hunters are urged to check the county specific hunting rules for these changes in the upcoming 2005-2006 Outdoor Annual, available in August.
The commission also eliminated the aggregate buck-bag restriction in one-buck and two-buck counties. The new regulation allows hunters to take a buck in any three different one-buck-only counties or they could hunt in multiple two-buck counties, provided they do not exceed the county bag limit or take more than three bucks in all the two-buck counties combined.
In addition to deer, the commission adopted regulation changes simplifying turkey hunting. The fall Rio Grande season has been consolidated and standardized to run concurrent with the general deer season. The spring season for Rio Grande turkeys will open the Saturday closest to April 1, 2006 for 44 consecutive days and the eastern turkey season will run April 1-30, 2006. The commission also opened fall and spring seasons for Rio Grande turkey in Cameron and Zapata counties, and a fall season in Tarrant County.
The commission also adopted rules prohibiting hunting by remote control. This issue centers on the use of Internet technology as it relates to the taking of game animals and game birds. The new provision requires any person hunting a game animal or game bird to be physically present and personally operate the means of take.
Several fishing regulation changes were also adopted by the commission, including a change in harvest regulations for red drum on Lake Nasworthy from the current 20-inch minimum length limit and daily bag limit of three fish, to no length and no bag limit to allow for maximized harvest of red drum.
In addition, the commission passed rules defining the North and South Arms of the Concho River to eliminate confusion about fishing regulations. The waters affected include the North Concho from O.C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam and South Concho from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam that are covered by special regulations for blue and channel catfish (no minimum length limit and pole and line only angling) and where statewide regulations (12-inch minimum length limit and no gear restrictions) are in effect along the South Concho above Lone Wolf dam.
Also, on Toledo Bend Reservoir the commission voted to remove the 12-inch minimum length limit for spotted bass to make it concurrent with the statewide limit and one being considered by the State of Louisiana.
Because of concerns about the vulnerability of certain live mollusks and other inter-tidal species to over-harvest, the commission also established a closed season along a small area of South Padre Island including the Brazos Santiago Pass and running on the bayward side of the island to Marisol Drive from Nov. 1 through April 30. The closure is designed to protect species such as hermit crabs, starfish, sea urchins and periwinkles. The new rule also establishes a daily bag limit of 15 univalve snails in aggregate and no more than two each in the daily bag of lightening whelk, horse conch, Florida fighting conch, pear whelk, banded tulip and Florida rocksnail.