Area outdoor persons invited to voice opinions on TPW regulation changes

Hunters and Anglers are invited to express their views on Texas Parks and Wildlife’s proposed regulation changes during 19 public hearings scheduled in the coming weeks across the state. Among the state’s recommendations are changes in dove hunting regulations that would reduce the daily bag and extend the season, a unified statewide deer season opening date and modifications to bass harvest rules on several popular lakes. TPW conducts an annual review of the state’s hunting and fishing regulations and makes changes based on statutory requirements and scientific data collected by field biologists. The process is designed to ensure sound biological management of resources while maximizing outdoor recreation opportunities. State wildlife officials gather public input on the proposed changes before submitting final recommendations to the TPW Commission. If adopted by the TPW Commission in April, any changes take effect Sept. 1. This year’s offering continues a theme advanced by the TPW Commission for several years 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 some or all weekends in October and up to 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 third 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. Following is a brief summary of other proposed changes to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation as they relate to various wildlife and fisheries resources. The public may comment on the proposals at upcoming hearings. Turkey: As the state’s eastern turkey restoration efforts continue to show success, biologists are looking to expand opportunity for hunting eastern turkey during the spring season by opening the season in Houston, Rusk, Smith, Upshur, and Wood counties. If adopted, 37 counties in East Texas would be open for spring eastern turkey hunting in 2002. Deer: The proposed regulations include some increases in the bag limit. In Aransas, Atascosa, Bee, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Live Oak, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr and Willacy counties, the bag limit would increase from four deer (no more than two bucks) to five deer (no more than three bucks). In Brown, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Mills, Mitchell, Nolan, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling and Tom Green counties, the bag would increase from four deer (no more than two bucks) to five deer (no more than two bucks). Biologists recommend some deer management opportunities. One such proposal would expand the Landowner Assisted Management Permits program (LAMPS) to include Fannin, Hunt and Rains counties. The other would allow the use of Anterless 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. Dove: Wildlife biologists want to assess public attitudes toward a move to a statewide 12-bird daily bag limit and 70-day hunting season for mourning doves. The daily bag limit of 15 birds over a 60-day season has been in place since 1994. TPW data show that neither set of regulations would have a negative biological impact on the resource. Another option would be to enact a change only in the south dove hunting zone. Current season opening dates differ between zones to increase hunting opportunity when dove densities are highest. However, season lengths and daily bag limits for doves have never varied between zones in Texas. Quail: Move the quail season opening date to the Saturday immediately preceding the opening day of the general deer season. If adopted, the opening date for the quail season this year would be Oct. 27. This proposal is the result of a public petition accepted for consideration by the commission. Javelina: It is proposed to open a javelina season in Archer county. Smallmouth Bass: TPW recommends 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. Largemouth Bass: The department recommends changes to harvest regulations on three popular bass fisheries. On O.H. Ivie Reservoir, fisheries biologists propose to eliminating the minimum length (currently 18 inches) and modify the five-fish daily bag limit. Anglers would be allowed to harvest five bass, however, only two bass of 18 inches or less could be harvested per day. On Lake Sweetwater, TPW proposes 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 also proposes a prohibition of trotlines, juglines and throw lines on Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett lakes. Some of the meetings that will be held near this area include: San Antonio on Feb. 26 at the Lions Field Adult Center, 2809 Broadway; San Angelo on Feb. 28 at the TAMU Research & Ext. Center, 7887 US HWY 87 North; Waco on Mar. 1 at the County Courthouse, 501 Washington, Comm. Courtroom, West Wing; Brownwood on Mar. 8 at the County Courthouse, 200 S. Broadway, County Courtroom. Public comment may be made at any of the public hearings or by contacting TPW in person or by writing to: Public Comment, Regulations and State Park Hunts, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744, (800) 792-1112, or by visiting the TPW website at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us and clicking the Public Input link.

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