Nov. 1 deer season opener looking good

Robert Sloan photo

Just to give you an example of how good the fast approaching gun season on deer will be, check this out. Bow hunters recently tagged two huge bucks. One taken in the Pineywoods scored 163 Boone & Crockett points. Another taken in South Texas scored 183 B&C points. That’s a good indication this deer season could deliver some outstanding bucks.

Alan Cain, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department White-tailed Deer Program leader, reports Texas hunters should see deer in good condition and above average numbers of mature bucks when the general season kicks off Nov. 1 statewide.

The gun season on deer runs through Jan. 4, 2015, in the 209 counties in the North Zone and through Jan. 18, 2015, in the 30 counties of the South Zone. For county specific regulations, check the 2014-15 Outdoor Annual – Texas Hunting and Fishing Regulations available where hunting licenses are sold, online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us and as a free mobile app download on iOS and Android platforms at www.txoutdoorannual.com/app.

“When it comes to deer, wildlife biologists use rainfall as a barometer for gauging hunting season because of the direct correlation between rainfall and impacts to habitat during certain times of the year (primarily as it relates to nutrition and cover deer need),” says TPWD’s Steve Lightfoot. “Rainfall or a lack thereof can significantly impact deer body condition, antler quality and fawn production – the end results are what hunters see each fall.”

According to Cain, mast crops (acorns, mesquite beans, etc.) that provide a good forage resource to help deer meet the demands of raising fawns and growing antlers during the stressful part of the summer have been in good supply this year. Those native food sources appear to be carrying over into the fall, which means some hunters might have to contend with native food sources competing with artificial feeders early in the season.

“Precipitation has greened up vegetation around much of the state in the last month and with green conditions, deer aren’t utilizing feeders as much,” says Cain. “The green vegetation and warm temperatures in October have made hunting a little tough.”

Anglers speak out against red snapper privatization scheme

Recreational anglers across the Gulf Coast are letting it be known that they are not happy with the direction of red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico as a monumental vote on the future of the fishery looms this week at a federal fishery management meeting in Mobile, Alabama. In this latest round of comments, more than 1,000 anglers have sent messages to members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in just the last three days asking them to focus on ensuring fair management of Gulf red snapper for everyone and not just select individuals. Since introduction, the proposal has elicited thousands of comments in opposition.

The comments from anglers are aimed at a highly controversial proposal known as Amendment 40 – Sector Separation, which is widely viewed as a misguided response to a broken federal management system. That proposal would take roughly half the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use. Amendment 40 is the critical first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled exactly like the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which fewer than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery. If approved, 75 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery could be locked up by private businesses.

“This is a huge moment for recreational anglers as it will set a precedent for how federal fisheries are managed from this point forward,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Federal fisheries management has backed itself into a corner and convinced itself that assigning private ownership rights is the only way out of the mess that it has created. That is completely unacceptable. If privatizing wildlife resources is the only answer, then it is time to completely rebuild the management system because it has hit rock bottom.”

In recent weeks, the states of Florida, Texas and Louisiana have each sent letters to the council in opposition to Amendment 40. In 2012, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus urged the Gulf Council to abandon the concepts of sector separation and catch shares. In 2009, four Gulf state governors wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in opposition to catch share programs and privatization proposals for wildlife resources. Nonetheless, proponents of privatization have kept the idea alive and have found a willing partner in NOAA Fisheries, which has proven incapable of properly managing recreational fisheries.

“The federal system has failed the angling public and is about to set us adrift with no recourse,” said Bird. “The council must see past the chaos of the moment and forge a solid path forward for everyone. Amendment 40 will simply lock this broken system into place. If this is the best federal management can do, then it is past time to let the states take a greater role.”

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