Deer season is in full swing, and big racks are coming to ice. We’ve had beautiful but cold weekend weather for deer hunters, but waterfowl and quail hunters wished for more birds. 

Liberal regulations permitted ample harvest. It hasn’t always been that way. 

Before Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was authorized to regulate hunting and fishing statewide, the bag limit on deer was set by the legislature at two buck deer with forked antlers. Later, counties were placed by special legislation under regulatory authority of TPWD and had a two buck, one doe bag limit, provided the landowner had been issued “doe permits.”

The deer season was set by the legislature as running from November 16 – December 31. That was known as the “General Law” season. That led to high absenteeism in some high schools on opening day. The “Regulatory Season”, set by the TPW Proclamation, provided a longer season which changed several times until it was finally set as starting the first Saturday in November through the first Sunday in January.

An anomaly in the law, however, gave a number of counties the right to accept or veto TPWD’s Proclamation if they disagreed with it. And some disagreed. In that case, the game seasons reverted to the “General Law” seasons. See any problem there?

 Some counties having the season set by TPWD sat next to counties that vetoed the proclamation and had the general law season starting later with different bag limits.

But wait; it got worse. Some counties were under “Special Laws” passed by the legislature affecting only that county. An example was Zapata County which opened its quail season on October 15, two weeks before the rest of Texas. Another was McMullen County, which opened deer season on November 1 and closed it December 15. Frio County, bordering McMullen, had a season running from November 16 – January 7. We had a hodge-podge system of game laws leading some to say you needed a lawyer to figure out seasons and bag limits in Texas!

But possibly the worst was Duval County. A powerful county leader got special legislation passed closing deer season for five years, there. His lawyer was quoted as saying that made it illegal for anyone except county residents to hunt! And he did.

Be thankful for our current system.

The new TPWD regulation cycle began earlier this year and on November 6, TPWD biologists previewed expected changes in game and fish regulations for 2020-2021 seasons.  For hunting, the bag limit for scaups is proposed to decrease to 1/day and the light geese bag is proposed to drop from 20/day to 10.

The Managed Deer Permit system was reviewed, and initiation of a permit fee was proposed. Fees range from $30 - $300.  Coastal Fisheries staff is considering changing flounder regulations and Inland Fisheries staff proposed changes on lakes Moss, Nasworthy, Texoma and Brushy Creek.

Final recommendations will be presented January 22-23 and voted on in March. Public comment may be submitted to https://www.tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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