Dove season alteration tops list of proposed rule changes for USFWS

Which is of greater value, three more birds in the hand or 10 more days in the bush’ Among this year’s proposed changes to Texas migratory game bird hunting regulations, dove hunters are being asked to choose between more days to harvest birds or more birds to harvest per day. Under framework approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas has the option of keeping the current 60-day mourning dove season and 15-bird daily bag limit or adopting a 70-day season and a 12-bird daily bag. Because neither combination affects the resource, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are looking to the hunters to help choose the format. Since TPW statistics reveal the average dove hunter bags only about four birds in an outing, the difference between a 12- and 15-bird limit may seem irrelevant, but for some South Texas hunters, an extended hunting season for doves in January could provide additional opportunity, particularly in tandem with quail hunting. Wildlife officials also have the flexibility to implement either framework in any or all of Texas’ three dove hunting zones. The TPW Commission will consider public comment on the options when making its final decision on the 2001-2002 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation on May 31. Regardless of the final options, officials propose that the mourning dove season retain the traditional Sept. 1 opening date in the North and Central Zones and begin Sept. 21 in the South Zone. If South Zone hunters prefer the longer season, the commission has proposed that the additional 10 days be added to the end of the winter season segment (Dec. 26-Jan. 19). Also on the slate for public comment are proposals affecting sandhill crane and waterfowl hunting. All proposals relating to migratory game bird hunting are contingent upon federal approval this summer. Last year, Texas did not gain federal approval to expand sandhill crane hunting opportunity along the Texas coastal bend. This year, wildlife officials believe a compromise with the USFWS will pave the way for the change, which would extend Zone C along the mid and lower coast. In exchange, the bag limit in Zone C would be reduced from three cranes to two. The decision by the USFWS will come in late June. TPW also proposes an early closure for a small portion of the northeast corner of sandhill crane Zone B, which would eliminate the need to close the entire zone at the start of a special light goose conservation season in the eastern goose zone. Currently, a small portion of Zone B in North Texas lies within the eastern goose zone, and under federal requirements, all other migratory game bird seasons must be closed before a special light goose season can begin. Again this year, TPW recommends a 16-day teal season to run Sept. 15-30 and expects the USFWS to propose seasons similar to last year’s for ducks and geese. If expectations hold through May waterfowl surveys on the breeding grounds, duck hunting season would run Oct. 20-22 and Oct. 27, 2001, through Jan. 20, 2002, in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit; Oct. 27-28 and Nov. 10, 2001, through Jan, 20, 2001, in the North Zone; and Oct. 27-Nov. 25 and Dec. 8, 2001, through Jan. 20, 2002, in the South Zone. The daily bag limit would remain six birds. Every five years, federal duck hunting season guidelines allow alterations to instate hunting zones. Texas has that option this year, and wildlife officials are suggesting a minor shift from the South Zone to the North Zone that portion of the state east and south of Houston between Interstate 45 and Interstate 10. Goose seasons would also follow last year’s dates, if adopted by the commission, but are contingent upon renewal of the special light goose conservation season. If the special season were approved, the season in the Western Zone would run Oct. 27, 2001, through Feb. 10, 2002, for both light and dark geese. In the Eastern Zone, the season would open Oct. 27 and close Feb. 10, 2002, for light geese; Jan. 29, 2002, for Canada geese and Jan. 20, 2002, for white-fronted geese. The Eastern Zone season will be altered if the light goose conservation season is reinstated. Closing dates for all geese would be Jan. 20, 2002, with the light goose season starting on Jan. 21, 2002. Anyone wishing to comment on these proposed changes can write to Hunting Information at TPW, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744, or call (800) 792-1112, Menu 5, Selection1, or call (512) 389-4505, or on the Internet (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us). Comments may also be made at the public hearing to be held at the Commissioners Hearing Room, Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, on May 31, 2001, at about 9 a.m. The rules, if approved by the commission, will be tentative until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets the federal regulations in late June. If approved by the commission and USFWS, the proposed changes would go into effect Sept. 1, 2001.

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