Public hearing held by TPWD
TPWD Hill Country District Leader Mike Krueger, headquartered at Kerrville, told them the department is seeking public comment on a suite of proposed wildlife- and hunting-related regulations that would expand special buck restrictions and liberalize antlerless harvest opportunities.
Krueger formerly was stationed at Lampasas as a TPWD technical guidance biologist.
"This is a part of a broader move to transition away from political boundaries and toward biologically based communities for managing deer populations," he said. "The state is divided into a number of resource management units based on soils, vegetative communities and land-use practices."
Most of Lampasas County is in a resource management unit that includes portions of Bell, Coryell, Bosque, Comanche, Hamilton and Mills counties. The intent of management units is to develop deer season bag limit frameworks based on these units, although implementation will track county boundaries to avoid confusion among hunters.
Krueger said the department is proposing to increase the deer bag limit in Lampasas and other eastern Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers counties to five deer (no more than two bucks). Currently, a hunter could kill two bucks and two does. Under the new rules, hunters could kill two bucks and three does, or one buck and four does, or up to five does.
These regulations also would include western Bell, Coryell and Hamilton counties.
The proposal would offer more opportunities for hunters and help reduce the number of antlerless deer, Krueger said.
Several landowners expressed their approval for increasing the bag limit for does, and no one voiced opposition to increasing the bag limit on antlerless deer.
"On my way to the meeting, I saw about 40 does on one field," said rancher Travis Herring. "We need to shoot more does."
Krueger said the department also proposes to expand the late antlerless and spike season into additional counties, including Lampasas, Bell, Coryell and Hamilton.
For the next season, it would run Jan. 4-15, 2010.
All public hearing participants expressed approval of the expanded season.
In response to a TPWD Commission directive to seek additional youth hunting opportunities, Krueger said the department has proposed a youth-only season during the last weekend of October, and a youth-only season to run concurrent with the late antlerless and spike only season Jan. 4-15.
During the youth-only season, hunters 16 and under could harvest any legal animal that would not exceed the bag limit. Adults hunting during the same period, however, could harvest only does and spikes.
The audience expressed support for the expanded youth season, but several people expressed concerns about the youth-only season and the antlerless and spike season running concurrently. One person said some adult hunters might hunt with a young hunter and then shoot a mature buck.
Another participant said he agreed with increasing the number of youth-only days, but he held similar concerns that some adults might use the opportunity to shoot a mature buck.
Another landowner said if the youth season and antlerless/spikeonly seasons run concurrently, confusion could result as an adult and youth hunting in the same blind would have to abide by different regulations.
"I think during the late youthonly season, young hunters should also be limited to does or spikes," one audience member said. "To me, this would be a simpler regulation and would curb any abuse of the youth season by an adult."
All participants agreed that young and adult hunters should abide with the regulations during the late-season hunt.
One proposed change would affect an adjoining county. The department has proposed adding Mills County as an antler restriction county. The restrictions would mirror those for Lampasas County, where only bucks with one unbranched antler or those with an inside spread of 13 inches or more are legal.
TPWD has proposed expanding the popular restriction to an additional 52 counties. Antler restrictions have improved age structure while maintaining ample hunting opportunities, based on data from the 61 counties where the rule already is in place.
Krueger said the department is proposing a muzzleloader season in additional counties and lengthening the muzzleloading season by five days to be equivalent in length with the special antlerless and spike buck seasons in other counties.
Lampasas County is not included in the special season, as this change would affect a number of East Texas counties and the Trans-Pecos region in far West Texas.
Although it has not been proposed, one resident expressed his concern about hunters using high-powered rifles on small tracts of land and in subdivisions. He asked if the department could impose a rule in which only shotguns could be used on tracts smaller than 10 acres.
Krueger said that decision would have to be made by county commissioners or though legislative action.
Krueger thanked participants for their comments, and he said anyone could offer input on the proposed regulations by visiting www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/ feedback/public comment.
He added that the TPWD Commission would consider all comments when they meet March 25-26 in Austin to approve the proposed regulation changes.