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Home | Tag Archives: texas parks and wildlife

Tag Archives: texas parks and wildlife

Prospects Still Scattered Ahead of Quail Season Opener

AUSTIN – This year’s quail season opens Saturday, October 27 like a covey rise, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s experts; everything’s up in the air.

Predictors leading up to the season showed bobwhite numbers down across the board, due in large part to dry conditions last winter that left hens scratching to get by.

Untimely rainfall during the latter part of the summer also could have an impact on nesting success, and the recent deluges that have hammered much of the state, in combination with an unexpected cold snap, may not bode well for late hatch efforts.

“Our surveys statewide indicate bobwhite numbers are below the 15-year average, and that’s due mainly to the weather,” said Robert Perez, upland game bird program leader with TPWD. “That doesn’t rule out hotspots where quail production did maintain some birds. Our surveys don’t fine tune down to the county level, but overall, right now it’s just a big unknown.”

Although production appears down this year, Perez is hoping late nesting birds will help fill the gaps, providing they escaped flooding.

Like most things quail, there are no guarantees.

TPWD landowner and hunter surveys indicate that quail hunters are likely to limit harvest in poor years. Research supports the practice of self-regulation in quail pastures, so enough breeders remain to boost populations when conditions improve. Landowners/hunters can contact their county biologist for site-specific recommendations and harvest guidelines

“This past winter was exceptionally dry across all of quail country, especially in the Rolling Plains where some places went without any precipitation for 100 consecutive days,” said Perez. “Unfortunately, these conditions can reduce the availability of foods like winter greens which are needed to get quail into breeding condition. Spring was also dry over much of these areas with few exceptions. Fortunately, quail are opportunistic when it comes to the breeding/nesting season and can take advantage of the rains even if they come late like they did this summer.”

TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine relative quail populations among the regions of Texas.

Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail observed per route this year and the 15-year mean for quail seen within an ecological region. The quail survey was not designed to predict relative abundance for any area smaller than the ecological region.

A regional breakdown of this year’s TPWD quail index survey, including highlights and prospects, is available online.

Quail hunting season runs through Feb. 24, 2019. The daily bag limit for quail is 15, with 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.

Texas Deer Hunters Set for Saturday’s Opening Day

AUSTIN – Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the forecast for much of the state, a rather balmy start for this weekend’s Texas deer season opener likely won’t deter hunters from participating in this time-honored tradition.

Hunting prospects are expected to be good across the state, regardless of the weather, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

The general deer hunting season opens Saturday, and runs through Jan. 7, 2018 in North Texas; 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, consult the 2017-18 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

Generally speaking, 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 vast majority of the state had a 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.

However, unlike the previous two years where widespread consistent rain and good habitat conditions persisted through the summer for much the state, 2017 saw dry weather patterns take hold in May and continue into late August.

These drier conditions late in the season will likely have some impact on final stages of antler development, body weights, and possibly fawn production, Cain explained, but hunters should still expect a good hunting season.

“Dry conditions were not uniform across the state and spotty rains from May through July left patches of green across the landscape in the western two-thirds of the state,” said Cain. “Landowners and hunters with properties lucky enough to receive some of early summer rains and that have remained green may expect better than average deer quality this fall.”

Hunters are reminded of new regulations for the 2017-18 season, including the establishment of chronic wasting disease (CWD) 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.

Hunters should also be aware of rules banning importation of certain deer, elk, and other CWD susceptible species carcass parts from states where the disease has been detected, as well as the movement of the same carcass parts from CWD zones.

The rules are part of the state’s comprehensive CWD management plan to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease and to contain the disease to the areas where it is known to exist.

More information about CWD Management and Regulations for Hunters is available on TPWD’s web site.

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site Hosts 23rd Annual Interpretive Fair

With over 10, 000 years of history, Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site is filled with historical and cultural gems left behind by early hunter gatherers and Native Americans.

Residents can experience Hueco Tanks history come to life at the 23rd annual Interpretive Fair Oct. 21-22.

The free, two day event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., will include Native American song and dance demonstrations, cultural presentations and educational tours.

Other planned activities include birding, nature and pictograph tours, living history presenters and folklorico dancers.

The Texas Wildlife Association Foundation is co-hosting the event with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this year.

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site is located 32 miles East of downtown El Paso on Highway 62/180. Turn north onto Ranch Road 2775 and continue 8 miles to the site.

For more information about Hueco Tanks, visit the TPWD website.

Parks and Rec Hosting Two Day Green Infrastructure Workshop

The City of El Paso was awarded grant funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Conservation License Plates Program to host a two-day workshop to promote green infrastructure and pollinator habitats.

The workshop will include a session on green infrastructure on August 24 and a half-day workday at Esmeralda Park on August 25.

Community members will learn how to alter a landscape to naturally absorb more water.  The workshop is brought to the community by the City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist, El Paso Water, High Desert Native Plants, and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission.

WHAT:     Green Infrastructure Workshop: Putting it to Work

WHEN:     8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, August 24, and 8 a.m. to noon, Friday, August 25

WHERE:   Thursday – El Paso Community College Library, 6701 S. Desert Blvd.

Friday – Esmeralda Park, 709 Esmeralda Armendariz (community members will be planting on site)

Video+Story: Texas Dove Hunting Season Outlook Promising

AUSTIN – For the first time since dove conservation measures were established in Texas nearly a century ago, hunters statewide will have an opportunity to pursue the popular game birds during the first weekend of September.

While the traditional September 1 opener will still be limited to Texas’ North and Central Dove Zones, hunters in the southern region of the state will be able to join in the action the following afternoon thanks to an expansion of the Special White-winged Dove Area across the entire South Dove Zone.

Previously, these early 4 days of dove hunting were restricted to an area roughly west and south of San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

“The expansion of early white-winged dove hunting during the first two weekends in September, in effect, create early September hunting opportunities statewide for the first time ever,” said Dave Morrison, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife Division deputy director.

The regular season opening day in the South Dove Zone will be Sept. 22, the earliest date possible this year under federal guidelines.

Roughly 15 percent of the nation’s 300 million mourning dove reside in Texas, along with about 15 million white-winged doves at the beginning of September. Each fall, over 300,000 Texas dove hunters take to the field in pursuit of these acrobatic, fast-flying game birds.

Based on field observations by TPWD wildlife biologists, prospects for the 2017-18 hunting season are fair to excellent across the state as habitat conditions vary depending on scattered precipitation and timing of plants seeding out. 

“Texas had above average mourning dove production early in the spring with continued good production where precipitation occurred through the spring and summer,” said Shaun Oldenburger, TPWD Dove Program Leader. “Good croton, sunflower, ragweed, and other highly-selected dove foods were found statewide this year. Where good water conditions and timing of seeding in these plants coincide, hunters should find good hunting in September for mourning doves.”

White-winged doves were observed flocking in late July in urban areas across the state with good numbers starting to move to more rural areas in early August, according to Oldenburger. Mourning dove populations are concentrated around water and food resources in August during the traditional hottest part of the year.

Hunters are reminded that licenses went on sale Aug. 15 for the 2017-18 hunting seasons and can be purchased through the agency’s 28 field offices, at more than 50 state parks and over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website or by phone at (800) 895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7.

Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season can be found in the 2017-2018 Outdoor Annual, available in print form at license retailers, online and in the free Outdoor Annual mobile app available for Apple and Android devices.

In addition to a hunting license, anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education training course.  Those under 17 and those 17 and older who purchase a one-time deferral license may hunt legally in Texas if accompanied by a licensed hunter 17 years or older who has passed hunter education or who is otherwise exempt. Accompanied means being within normal voice control.

The TPWD Hunter Education certification is valid for life and is honored in all other states and provinces. More information on hunter education certification is available online.

A Migratory Game Bird endorsement and Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification are also required to hunt dove. HIP certification involves a brief survey of previous year’s migratory bird hunting success and is conducted at the time licenses are purchased.

2017-18 Dove Season Calendar

North Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 12 and Dec. 15-31.

Central Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 5 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 7, 2018.

Special White-winged Dove Days (entire South Zone): Sept. 2-3, 9-10.

South Zone: Sept. 22 – Nov. 8 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 21, 2018.

The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.

 

During the early two weekends for the Special White-winged Dove Days (in the South Zone), hunting is allowed only from noon to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season in the South Zone, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.

Automated Online Managed Lands Deer Program Rollout Coming Soon

AUSTIN – Landowners participating in the highly-popular Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) will be able to complete the enrollment process and print their tags online beginning this summer, thanks to a new automated system being implemented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The new online process is just one aspect of a much-needed overhaul of the MLDP, which began in 1996 and has become so successful that it outpaced the department’s manpower and resources.

Currently, more than 10,000 farms and ranches covering about 26 million acres are enrolled in the MLD program, which is designed to foster and support sound management and stewardship of native wildlife and wildlife habitats on private lands in Texas. Participation is recognized through incentive-based deer tag issuance that provides extended hunting season lengths and liberalized harvest opportunities beyond what is allowed under the county regulations. Participants also have access to varying levels of technical assistance regarding wildlife and habitat management from TPWD biologists.

TPWD has simplified the program down to two options — Harvest or Conservation — from the previous three levels of white-tailed deer MLD, mule deer MLD, and the Landowner Assisted Management Permit or LAMPS. Both options retain issuance of deer tags that can be used during an extended hunting season from about Oct. 1 through the end of February, but the Harvest Option does come with early season buck harvest restrictions (archery equipment only in October for branched-antlered bucks). Antlerless and unbranched antler bucks may still be harvested by any legal means during the entire MLDP season.

Landowners seeking to enroll in either the MLDP Harvest or Conservation Option must use the new Land Management Assistance online system when it becomes available to submit an application for participation. The application process will require the landowner to create an account and to draw a property boundary in the online system. An email address is required for the landowner and any designated agents the landowner may assign to the account.

Participants selecting the Harvest Option will receive automated harvest recommendations, tag issuance, and general correspondence about wildlife and habitat management; no site specific deer population data or customized harvest recommendations from a TPWD biologist required. The Conservation Option is similar in scope to the old Level 3 MLD, and comes with customized technical guidance and harvest recommendations from TPWD, requiring at least three approved habitat management practices be implemented each year.

TPWD currently issues about 330,000 deer tags each year through the MLDP.  “Phenomenal growth in the MLD program over the last 20 years has presented significant challenges for staff to meet the increasing number of requests from landowners for technical assistance and simply administer the program,” explained Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader.

Effective this year, participants will be able to print their own MLDP tags, which will eliminate issues with tags lost in the mail, not arriving on time, or bad address, and provide greater convenience and flexibility to participants.

The system retooling won’t sacrifice the core mission of the program, Cain reassured, rather will enable limited wildlife biologist staff to focus private lands technical guidance efforts on site-specific wildlife population and habitat management recommendations.

“Our primary goal is to continue developing long-term relationships with private landowners, engage and educate them about the importance of management in promoting healthy habitats and wildlife populations, and ultimately put more resource conservation on the ground,” said Cain.

Details and additional information about the MLDP is available online.

El Paso Snags $1m Grant from Texas Parks for Northeast Regional Park

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Thursday approved nearly $16 million in competitive local park grants to help fund projects that will create and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities like nature trails, urban gardens, playgrounds with full accessibility, dog parks, splash pads and sports fields at 37 community parks across the state.

As part of the awards, El Paso landed an urban outdoor grant of $1 million for the Northeast Regional Park project. The proposed development for this project includes lighted ballfields, a dog park, trails, benches, fitness stations, landscaping, signs and a parking lot expansion.

Del Rio was the recipient of a $500,000 non-urban outdoor grant for its community sports park project. The grant will be used to acquire 30 additional acres to expand upon its existing 11 acre sports park. Other proposed development includes renovation of existing softball and baseball fields, multi-purpose field, a playground, picnic tables, trails, fitness stations and landscaping.

The grants allocate to local government entities appropriated state and federal funding dedicated for the acquisition and/or development of public recreation areas and facilities in Texas on a 50/50 reimbursement match basis. Once funded, all grant assisted sites must be dedicated as parkland in perpetuity, properly maintained and open to the public.

The commission, which administers the local parks grant program for the State of Texas, awarded projects in various categories based on community population size and scope. Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants are reserved for cities having populations exceeding 500,000, with projects in five communities receiving grants.

The Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants are dedicated to funding park projects in municipalities under 500,000 and the commission approved awards to projects in 13 communities. The Small Community Recreation Grants are for park projects in towns of less than 20,000 and were awarded to 13 communities.

Urban Indoor Grants are given to communities with populations exceeding 500,000 and were awarded to two communities. Non-Urban Indoor Grants are given to municipalities with a population less than 500,000 and were awarded to four communities.

For more information about the local park grants program, visit the TPWD local park grants page.

 

TPWD: Hunting Prospects Promising for Spring Turkey Season

AUSTIN – With a significant carryover of mature gobblers and an influx of young birds to match wits against, hunter patience as much as skill may be put to the test during this year’s spring turkey season.

According to biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Rio Grande wild turkey numbers have boomed over the past few years thanks to timely rainfall and relatively cool summer conditions that have set the stage for optimum reproduction and recruitment. As a result, turkeys are making a comeback in many areas where they had been lost due to extended periods of drought and that’s good news for turkey hunters hoping to bag a bird this spring.

More turkeys may not guarantee immediate success. Biologists predict the early spring green-up and abundance of juvenile hens could have a profound impact on breeding behavior or at least on a gobbler’s willingness to come to the call this season.

“Field observations indicate flocks have already begun to break up and toms have been strutting for weeks,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD Upland Game Bird Program specialist. “That means many hens could become interested in breeding near opening day of the season, effectively hampering a hunter’s chances of luring love-struck gobblers. If you do go early in the season some of the best hunting could be mid-day after hens split off from males.

“However, by mid-season most of the hens should be bred and incubating eggs leaving a large number of mature gobblers looking for love,” he noted. “Also, if conditions remain mild and if we get a few more timely rain events, Texas can expect another good year of nesting and populations growth.”

The spring season for Rio Grande turkey gets under way March 11-12 with a youth-only weekend in the South Zone, followed by a general season that runs March 18-April 30 and then culminates with a youth-only weekend May 6-7. In the North Zone, the youth-only weekend seasons are March 25-26 and May 20-21.

The North Zone general season opens April 1 and runs through May 14. A special one-gobbler limit season runs April 1-30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam, and Wharton counties.

Hunters who were on birds last year can expect more of the same in East Texas this spring. “They should be there again this spring,” said Hardin. “We do not expect to see a significant population shift from the 2016 season.”

Eastern spring turkey hunting in the counties having an open season is April 15-May 14. Hunters are required to report harvest of eastern turkeys electronically to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest. Reports can be made through the TPWD My Texas Hunt Harvest App or online from the TPWD turkey page.

The app is available for free download from Google Play or the App Store. Hunters will be issued a confirmation number upon completion of the reporting process. Hunters still have to tag harvested birds.

The new harvest reporting app can also be used as a tool for voluntarily reporting and tracking harvests of other resident game species, including Rio Grande turkey. With My Texas Hunt Harvest, hunters can log harvested game animals and view harvest history, including dates and locations of every hunt.

Applications Being Accepted for Texas Game Warden Cadet Class

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is building its next generation of elite state law enforcement officers with the 62nd Texas Game Warden Cadet class. Applications are being accepted now through March 31.

“We are beginning the process of hiring and training the next generation of conservation law enforcement professionals.  We encourage anyone interested in becoming a Texas Game Warden to apply,” said Col. Craig Hunter, TPWD Law Enforcement Director. “Since 1895, Texas game wardens have protected the people of Texas through professional law enforcement services that include land, water and air patrols; search and rescue; and tactical operations, all while working to conserve and protect the natural resources of our state.”

Applicants must be 21 years of age before the projected graduation date of Aug. 2018, and have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university prior to Sept. 1, 2017. Applicants must also undergo a preliminary interview, background investigation and physical skills tests focusing on agility and swimming.

Persons interested in strengthening their swimming skills should contact the American Red Cross to take a swimming course.

All cadets are required to live at the Game Warden Training Center near Hamilton, Texas, for the duration of the 30-week training period.

After graduation, new game wardens will be assigned to vacant stations throughout Texas with the responsibility of protecting the state’s natural resources. Game wardens also protect lives by enforcing the Water Safety Act and conducting standard peace officer duties.

Candidates can apply online. Application deadline for the 62nd Texas Game Warden Cadet class is March 31, 2017.

For more information, check the game warden website or contact Texas game warden recruiters Lt. Kevin Malonson at kevin.malonson@tpwd.texas.gov and game warden Eric Howard at eric.howard@tpwd.texas.gov, or call 877-229-2733.

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