Warm opener for hunters of both duck and deer

Deer photo by Robert Sloan

This past weekend was the opener of deer season across Texas and the duck season in the South Zone. It was the one weekend when hundreds of thousands of Texas hunters put on the camo, loaded their favorite gun and headed outdoors.

As for deer hunting, it wasn’t exactly a frigid opener. In fact, it was hot and miserable for hunters in East Texas and the Hill Country. And for sure it was not classic duck hunting weather. Regardless of the warm and muggy weather, it’s a sure thing that plenty of deer were tagged, and I can guarantee you that most duck hunters were not disappointed.

Hunters at the J. D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur brought in plenty of ducks at the check station. Just after our last good cold front, big-time numbers of ducks moved into this very popular WMA. Most of the birds were gray ducks, but there were also plenty of teal and pintails. Goose hunters did very well on rice fields near Wharton. Lots of speckle belly geese were in fields by the hundreds, and plenty of hunters took advantage of the low flying birds that can easily be called into a decoy spread early in the season.

Deer hunting prospects were expected to be good across the state, regardless of the weather, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The general deer hunting season runs through Jan. 7, 2018, in North Texas and Jan. 21, 2018 in South Texas. A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 8-21, 2018. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities and county specific regulations, check out the 2017-18 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

White-tailed deer in Texas have fared well in recent years with a stable population of about 4.3 million, according to Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader.

“The majority of the state had good habitat conditions going into last winter and early spring, which helped bucks recover from the rigors of the rut, and gave them a good foundation to start the antler growth cycle this year,” he said.

The one thing that might hamper early season deer hunters is the lush vegetation and lots of acorns. That’s going slow the movement of deer to corn feeders for the next couple of weeks.

Hunters are reminded of new regulations for the 2017-18 season, including the establishment of chronic wasting disease management zones. Hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer or other CWD susceptible species within the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, and South-Central Texas CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones are required to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of harvest. TPWD also urges voluntary sampling of hunter harvested deer outside of these zones.

Saltwater recreational fishing tops list of America’s favorite pastimes

Commercial and recreational fisheries remain a strong contributor to the United States economy, according to the annual Fisheries of the United States report just released by NOAA.

Saltwater recreational fishing remains one of America’s favorite pastimes and a key contributor to the national economy, with 9.6 million anglers making nearly 63 million trips in 2016, catching more than 371 million fish (61 percent of which are released alive), and in 2015, contributing $36 billion to the national economy. By weight, striped bass remains the top harvested catch among saltwater anglers, followed by dolphinfish, bluefish, yellowfin tuna, spotted seatrout and flounder.

Also in 2016, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.3 billion. The highest value commercial species were lobster ($723 million), crabs ($704 million), scallops ($488 million), shrimp ($483 million), salmon ($420 million) and Alaska walleye pollock ($417 million). By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska walleye pollock, which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds, representing 35 percent of total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.

Outlaw deer hunters can run but not hide

A Hunt County game warden received a call from a landowner about shots being fired from a county road near her home at night. The warden responded and soon located a truck with a spotlight being shined from the window. He stopped the vehicle and a brief investigation revealed the subjects inside were the ones shooting from the roadway. The warden seized three spotlights, two semi-automatic rifles and cartridge casings as evidence. As the warden was writing tickets to the group for hunting from a roadway, another vehicle pulled alongside. When the warden attempted to make contact with the occupants of the second vehicle, the driver shifted into reverse and took off. The warden was able to stop the vehicle a short distance away and an investigation turned up methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. A computer check revealed the male and female subjects inside the vehicle had both recently been released from prison. That night, they went back to jail.

Waterfowl hunters reminded to help prevent spread of invasive species

With duck hunting season getting underway in most of the state in early November, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is reminding waterfowl hunters to clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before traveling from lake to lake to help avoid spreading invasive species like giant salvinia and zebra mussels.

“Invasive species like giant salvinia can quickly grow to cover expanses of fresh water, which can block access for hunters to prime waterfowl hunting areas,” said John Findeisen, TPWD aquatic invasive species team lead. “By properly cleaning, draining and drying equipment and reporting sightings of invasive species, waterfowl hunters can make a big difference in the fight to protect our lakes and waterways from aquatic invaders.”

Findeisen noted all equipment that comes into contact with the water is capable of harboring invasive species – including waders, boats, trailers and decoys – and can quickly spread them to new places and destroy aquatic habitats.

“Any gear that has been in the water can carry invasives and must also go through a thorough clean, drain and dry process,” Findeisen said. “This includes decoys, waders and marsh sleds.”

In Texas, it is unlawful to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species, dead or alive, anywhere in the state. TPWD regulations also require boaters to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles before leaving or approaching a public body of fresh water in order to prevent the transfer of invasive species. This regulation applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not: personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes or any other vessel used on public waters.

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Because early detection is an important part of reducing or eliminating the presence of invasive species, TPWD encourages hunters to help be the eyes open in their hunting areas. To report giant salvinia, call (409) 384- 9965 or use the online report form. If you find zebra mussels on your boat or gear, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 before moving it to another waterbody. To report zebra mussels in a new waterway, use our online report form.