TPWD seeks public comment on hunting and fishing proposals

Posted by Paige Stewart - email

AUSTIN – Expansion of mule deer hunting opportunities tops a short list of proposed changes to the state's hunting and fishing regulations the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is considering for 2010-2011.

TPWD is recommending an open general season for mule deer in Dawson and Wheeler counties, and adding a day to the season across the Trans Pecos region. Department staff presented the proposals to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Regulations Committee. The proposals address a priority goal in TPWD's Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan to increase access to and participation in the outdoors.

Currently there is no open season for mule deer in Dawson or Wheeler counties. Implementing a nine-day, buck-only season in Dawson County and a 16-day, buck-only season in Wheeler County would offer increased hunter opportunity without adversely impacting mule deer reproduction or distribution.

According to TPWD wildlife biologists, mule deer populations in these counties are limited, but are present in some areas having suitable habitat and implementation of a buck-only season will not have any measurable impact on herd productivity or expansion.

Traditionally, big game hunting seasons in Texas open on Saturday to give hunters a full weekend of opportunity. Because the mule deer season in the Trans Pecos starts on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the TPW Commission asked the Wildlife Division to explore an option to open a day earlier to take advantage of the long holiday weekend. This proposal would add a day to the current 16-day season and create an opening day on the Friday following Thanksgiving each year.

Wildlife biologists suggest adding a day to the season in the Trans Pecos will not negatively impact the mule deer resource.

In addition to hunting regulation proposals, TPWD staff presented an abbreviated slate of potential changes to fishing regulations and, based on input during recent public scoping meetings, removed from consideration a proposal to lower the length limit on snook from 24 to 22 inches.

The department had considered the drop in length limit on snook to allow additional harvest of fat snook. Opinions expressed during scoping meetings reflected concern about potential impacts to common snook resources under reduced length limits and TPWD coastal fisheries officials opted to table the recommendation.

Fisheries staff will be seeking public comment on proposals strengthening commercial reporting requirements and separating commercial and recreational regulations, as well as a clarification of rules regarding catching and possessing fish within protected length limits or in excess of bag limits.

Official proposals will be available for review and comment during a series of public meetings in February, as well as online. The TPW Commission will make final determination on proposed changes at its April 1 public hearing.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.