Game wardens hunt down poachers shooting ducks on the Neches River

The 2016-17 duck hunting season is officially closed and overall it was better t

The duck season closed this past Sunday at sundown, and based on reports here in Southeast Texas, it was a pretty run for most hunters. Some of the best shoots were at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur. Coastal hunts in the marsh were fair, and guide Colby Denbow reports that his hunts between Beaumont and Winnie were pretty good overall.

“Most of our birds were teal and shovelers, with quite a few pintails mixed in,” says Denbow. “I was hunting over flooded rice and plowed fields. We had a pretty good number of geese, too.”

Mike Rezsutek with the J.D. Murphree W.M.A. reports that their hunts were better than average.

“We had 3,970 hunters that averaged three birds per hunt,” says Rezsutek. “They harvested 12,593 birds. About 6,000 of those were gadwall, with 3,000 teal.”

Other birds harvested included pintails, widgeon and shovelers.

Shooting ducks off the roost is costly

Game wardens in Trinity and Angelina counties investigated a tip about hunters shooting ducks after legal shooting hours along the Neches River, but by the time they arrived on the scene, the shooting had stopped and they were unable to locate the suspects. Based on the tip, there were two groups hunting after hours, one on each side of the Neches River. Believing the suspects might attempt to repeat their actions the following evening, game wardens set up surveillance on the Trinity County side of the Neches, and on the Angelina County side, as well. Wardens waited and listened for shots and once the shooting began, again well after legal hours, wardens were able to pinpoint the suspects’ location on the Trinity County side. All three wardens converged and caught four hunters. Cases for hunting waterfowl after legal hours, possession of lead shot and no hunter’s education were filed, as well as civil restitution.

Outlaw duck hunters run from wardens but don’t get far

An East Texas game warden recently received a call about duck hunters trespassing and hunting without landowner consent. Upon the warden’s arrival, the hunters quickly fled the area but left behind decoys on the water and a small boat. Further inspection of the scene revealed empty lead shotshells, which are illegal for hunting waterfowl. The warden also found corn scattered around the area, indicating illegal baiting of waterfowl. A quick call to dispatch returned a registered owner and address for the boat, which wasn’t far from the scene. The warden was able to quickly locate and make contact with the hunters. Charges and restitution are pending for trespassing, hunting over bait, hunting waterfowl with unplugged shotguns, and illegal use of lead shot.

First case of CWD detected in free-ranging Texas whitetail

Chronic wasting disease has been detected in a hunter harvested 1 1/2 –year-old white-tailed buck submitted for sampling in Medina County. This marks the first confirmed case of CWD in a free-ranging Texas whitetail.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Animal Health Commission are taking steps to deploy an early detection and containment strategy designed to limit the spread of CWD from the affected area and better understand the distribution and prevalence of the disease.

“Although the disease has been discovered in a free-ranging whitetail in this area, we cannot draw any conclusions at this time based on one detection,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD’s Wildlife Veterinarian. “The proactive measures we are taking as part of our epidemiological investigation into this case are in line with the state’s strategies to prevent this disease from spreading any further. The more effective we are at containing this disease within a limited geographic area, the better it will be for our wildlife resources and all those who enjoy them.”

Effective immediately under an executive order issued by TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, Surveillance Zone 3 (SZ3), which extends across portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties, is now a CWD Containment Zone and all associated rules for that designation are in effect. Those rules include restrictions on the movements of carcass parts as well as live deer possessed under the authority of a permit. The department is also implementing mandatory CWD testing of hunter harvested deer within this containment zone.

“This emergency action allows us to contain the threat of this disease spreading any further while we collect more information and gather more data,” said T. Dan Friedkin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chairman. “Not only are these temporary emergency measures necessary and consistent with the state’s planned strategies for CWD management, they are essential for ensuring the protection of the state’s whitetail deer herd and the integrity of our hunting heritage.

“With the confirmation of CWD in a free-ranging buck in Medina County, the TAHC is working with TPWD to determine the disease risk in the area,” said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist. “TAHC understands and appreciates TPWD’s immediate response and temporary measures to prevent the inadvertent spread of CWD to other parts of Texas.”

While the general deer hunting season is over, TPWD will continue to collect samples from MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Program) properties in the new Containment Zone as well as road kills. The department is seeking as many additional samples for testing as it can obtain in order to get a better handle on the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease in this area.

TPWD unveils hunting season regulation proposals for 2017-18

Increased dove hunting opportunities across South Texas and expanded landowner-managed pronghorn permitting in the Panhandle highlight this year’s slate of proposed regulation changes for the 2017-18 Texas hunting seasons.

TPWD will be taking public comment on the following proposed changes to the 2017-18 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, with input to be considered prior to any action by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its March 23 public hearing:

• Increasing dove hunting opportunity by expanding the early September 4-day Special White-winged Dove Area hunting season to the entire South Zone boundary.

• Modify the age for the youth-waterfowl participants from 15 to 16 years of age.

Comments on the proposed rules may be submitted by phone or e-mail to Robert Macdonald at (512) 389-4775, robert [dot] macdondald [at] tpwd [dot] texas [dot] gov, or in writing to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, attn. Wildlife Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744. Comments may also be submitted through the department’s Internet website once the proposals have been published in the Texas Register.