Deer season opener is hot to go

Texas has a whitetail deer population in excess of 4 million.

The Saturday, Nov. 5, deer season opener across Texas will be hot to go, as in sweating hot, thanks to unseasonably mild weather. However, bucks in East and Central Texas are in the rut, and it’s a sure thing that this is the time to be in a stand and on point for a shot at what might be the buck of a lifetime.

The South Zone duck season opener is Nov. 5, as well. But due a lack of cold fronts moving through, the numbers of ducks here in Southeast Texas are on the down side. However, we should get a push of ducks down the Central Flyway with a cool front that is supposed to move through Southeast Texas this weekend.

Without a doubt, deer hunting will take center stage this Saturday. All indicators point to excellent prospects, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“It’s has been quite a while since I remember a time when we’ve experienced great back-to-back years of good rains across most if not all of the state,” says Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader. “But 2016 has been an unusual year in that the majority of the state has received good rains and surprisingly, temperatures have remained relatively mild.

“Ideal weather conditions this year have helped produce a smorgasbord of lush green forbs and woody browse plants, which comprise the majority of a deer’s diet. These favorable range conditions will put deer in top body condition this year and antler quality should be above average.”

Parts of East Texas that have experienced extended flooding conditions may be the exception. Hunters play a key role in habitat management by helping to maintain deer numbers within the amount of food supplies the land can sustain. Wildlife biologists have conducted extensive deer habitat research over time and recommend deer harvest based on their findings.

The Edwards Plateau, commonly referred to as the Texas Hill Country, supports the highest deer population in the state with a 2015 estimate of 2.27 million deer and the greatest deer densities at 117 deer per 1,000 acres.

Big Thicket trapping season permitting process underway

The Big Thicket National Preserve will be issuing 21 fur-bearing trapping permits for the 2016-17 Texas fur-bearing trapping season (Dec. 1, 2016 – Jan. 31, 2017). Fur-bearing animals include the following: badger, beaver, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, otter, raccoon, ring-tailed cat, skunk and civet cat (spotted skunk). Limited permits will be available for designated trapping areas: Beaumont unit – 4, Jack Gore Baygall unit – 7, Lance Rosier unit – 7, and Neches Bottom unit – 3.

Fur-bearing trapping permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis from Nov. 1-30 at the preserve’s headquarters. The headquarters building is adjacent to the preserve’s visitor center, 8 miles north of Kountze at the intersection of FM 420 and Highway 69, and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Permits will be issued by appointment only. Appointments may be made by telephone at (409) 951-6821.

Everyone who traps fur-bearing animals in Big Thicket National Preserve must have a Big Thicket fur-bearing trapping permit.

Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn set up for Bassmaster high school, college tournaments

High school and college anglers will be competing during prime fishing times on some of the premier bass fisheries in the country during the 2017 Bassmaster high school and college tournaments.

Both high school and college schedules feature bass fisheries that have hosted various Bassmaster tournaments throughout the years, according to Hank Weldon with BASS.

“One of the cool things we are doing with some high school tournaments is going to locations like Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn that have hosted Bassmaster events for multiple years,” Weldon said. “We expect a very large field there with the High School Southern Open again.”

“These are great fisheries at the prime time of year when our College Series will be competing,” Weldon said. “So we expect some large weights and consider this schedule really strategic in terms of picking the right locations at the right time.”

The College Series runs Jan. 26-28 as the Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts the Central Conference Regional at Sam Rayburn.

The High School Series begins March 11 with the Central Open at Toledo Bend Reservoir hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country.

Areas close to oyster harvest 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is closing designated Approved and Conditionally Approved Areas in four Texas bays to all oyster harvest effective Tuesday, Nov. 1, due to low abundance of oysters in these areas. Copano Bay will close Saturday, Nov. 5.

Areas affected by the closure include:

• Galveston Bay: TX-1; TX-4; TX-5 and TX-6

• Matagorda Bay: TX-13 and TX-15

• Tres Palacios Bay: TX-14

• Lavaca Bay: TX-19; TX-20 and TX-21

• Copano Bay: TX-32 (TPWD closure on Nov. 5)

These closures are based on samples collected by the TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division in September and October and after consultation with the department’s Oyster Advisory Workgroup, a stakeholder group comprised of Texas commercial oyster fishermen and dealers.

TPWD sampling during the last two months found conditions in these areas did not meet the criteria for opening. This closure is designed to provide some protection to undersize oysters so they can reach legal sizes. The closed areas will be monitored by TPWD and will reopen when criteria thresholds are met.

Maps showing closed areas can also be found on the DSHS website