Saturday

Texas Deer Hunters Welcome Cooler Weather for Opening Weekend

New mandatory harvest reporting required for antlerless deer harvest




Deer hunters hoping for a change in the weather may be in luck for opening weekend of general deer season as weather forecasters predict cooler temperatures across the state. With an estimated 5.3 million deer in the statewide white-tailed deer population, Texas hunters heading to the field this fall are sure to fill their freezers with this season’s bounty.

“Good fawn production this year should help maintain the overall population and provide an abundance of deer for hunters to pursue,” said Alan Cain, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s white-tailed deer program leader. “We’ve seen a slow but steady growth in the statewide population over the last 15 years, particularly in areas such as the Hill Country, Oak Prairies and portions of the Cross Timbers. As a result of the growing population, we’ve expanded hunting season opportunities in the last several years, including a couple of changes to the antlerless season in 2019.”

For the first time, 21 counties in south-central Texas can partake in a four-day antlerless season that runs from Nov. 28- Dec. 1.

Any antlerless deer harvested during the archery, youth-only, muzzleloader, and the 4 doe-days during the general season is required to be reported to the department within 24 hours of harvest using either the “My Texas Hunt Harvest” mobile app (for iOS and Android) or on TPWD’s My Texas Hunt Harvest web page.

Counties required to report their harvest include Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Waller, Washington and Wilson. Also included in the change are Goliad, Jackson, Victoria and Wharton counties north of U.S. Highway 59 and Comal, Hays and Travis counties east of IH-35.

The change in weather may be what is needed to jump start deer movement which has been slow during archery season due to unseasonably warm temperatures.  As hunting conditions improve with cooler temperatures, hunters can expect an above average year in terms of antler quality, deer numbers and overall harvest.

“Despite a slow start to archery and MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Program) season, I’m hearing of some exceptional bucks being harvested including an incredible 214 gross Boone and Crockett score low-fenced buck from La Salle County,” said Cain. “I’ve talked to a number of hunters and landowners who have been scouting at their lease or hunting property for the upcoming general season and are reporting good antler quality as well. I think hunter excitement is high this season and hunters have lots to look forward to.”

The general gun season opener kicks off on Nov. 2 and runs through Jan. 5, 2020 in north Texas and Jan. 19, 2020 in south Texas. A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 6-19, 2020. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities and county specific regulations, consult the 2019-2020 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

Hunters are also reminded to review the TPWD chronic wasting disease regulations for information about CWD testing requirements and carcass movement restrictions for the 2019-2020 season. Also as a reminder, Texas hunters harvesting deer, elk, moose or other susceptible species in other CWD-positive states must also comply with carcass movement restrictions when bringing those harvested animals back into Texas.  Additionally, the Texas Animal Health Commission has mandatory testing requirements that apply to elk, red deer, sika, moose and reindeer.

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Friday

New Paddling Trail Launches on Sabine River

Texas now boasts 78 paddling trails across the state




As we look to starting a new recurring feature in 2020 featuring paddling/hiking/biking/history trails across the state, we're proud to share Texas' newest trail here on our blog. The Sabine Sandbar Paddling Trail near Carthage opens this week, offering paddlers the opportunity to enjoy tree-lined river views and plenty of wildlife sightings. 

The 78th official Texas Paddling Trail, as designated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was nominated by the Panola County Chamber of Commerce and Texas Conservation Alliance because of its gleaming white sandbars and opportunity for great paddling.

The Sabine Sandbar Trail starts at FM 2517 southeast of Carthage on the Sabine River and continues 15 miles downriver to McFadden’s Landing on the west side of the river at CR 438. The trail has an alternate take-out point another four miles downriver at Yellow Dog Park on the east side of the river on CR 455.

“This section of the Sabine River is lined with beautiful white sandbars, ideal for resting,” said Michael Banks, Paddling Trail Coordinator for the Texas Conservation Alliance. “The winter sand bass spawn is great for fishing and slipping down the river in a canoe or kayak is a great way to see wildlife.”

The sand bass spawn usually runs from February to mid-March and draws anglers from all over Texas. Catfish are also a popular fishing species that can be caught year-round. The wide variety of wildlife a visitor may see includes bald eagles, osprey, great blue herons, kingfishers, and various kinds of ducks. The lucky paddler may also spot a river otter, beaver, or white-tailed deer.

“There are safety measures that should always be observed,” Banks said. “Let someone know where you are going on the Sabine River; wear a personal floatation device (required by law for anyone under 13 years of age); take enough water for your trip; wear sunscreen and insect repellent and take a first aid kit.”

Kiosks mark the trail’s access sites and provide information such as reminders that traveling the 15- to 19-mile trail may take 7-10 hours, so paddlers need to plan and pack carefully for their outing. The water level in the Sabine River fluctuates with local rainfall and runoff from upstream, and temporary high-water levels can occur. Visitors should check river levels and flow before launching their boat.

For more information, visit the trail's home page.

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Thursday

Beware the Bugbear

Ghost-faced bats’ frightening features actually aid echolocation 




Once upon a time, an ugly mythical creature called a bugbear gobbled up children if they refused to behave. At least, that’s what their frazzled parents had them believe!

Scary or not, bugbears share their name and bizarre looks with the ghost-faced bat, a Texas species that ranges from the Trans-Pecos and Rio Grande Valley regions into the Edwards Plateau. In Greek, the genus name Mormoops loosely translates to “bugbear face.”

“Whenever my students see one for the first time, they can’t believe anything looks like that,” says Loren Ammerman, a biology professor at Angelo State University. “Ghost-faced bats have a satellite-dish face with tiny eyes set way back in their big ears. Their faces also have flaps and wrinkles that help them send and receive echoes when catching prey.”

Leafy-looking flaps on their chins account for their other common name — leaf-chinned bats.

“They don’t have strong skulls, so they eat mainly soft-bodied insects like moths,” adds Ammerman, co-author of Bats of Texas (new edition, Texas A&M Press). “They fly fast and far when foraging.”
Little more is known about this elusive species.

“In the winter, ghost-faced bats tend to roost in caves found in West Texas and the Edwards Plateau,” Ammerman says. “But we’re not sure where they have their nurseries in early summer.”

They often share caves with myotis and Brazilian free-tailed bats. Barely, that is. Ghost-faced bats avoid roosting near other species and — unlike their more sociable relatives who sleep bunched up together — keep six inches apart among themselves. 

Wednesday

Big Time Texas Hunts Winners Announced

Texas Grand Slam winner, others can expect 'hunt of a lifetime'




The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has announced the 14 lucky winners of this year’s Big Time Texas Hunts, which were selected at random from entries in the drawing.

All told, hunters bought 106,114 Big Time Texas Hunt entries. More than $973,495 in gross sales was generated, and proceeds from the drawing go to support wildlife research, habitat management and public hunting.

“Big Time Texas Hunts continues to be an important conservation fundraiser for TPWD,” says Justin Dreibelbis, TPWD Private Lands and Public Hunting Program director. “If a hunter is lucky enough to win, they will experience the hunt of a life time.  If they don’t, they can feel good knowing the funds from their entry goes directly to wildlife conservation and public access projects on public hunting lands in Texas.”

This year’s winner of the Texas Grand Slam hunting package, Lee Ferguson of Marshall, is making plans for four separate guided hunts for the state’s top four premier big game species – desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, pronghorn and mule deer.

Following are the other category winners of this year’s Big Time Texas Hunts:
Ultimate Mule Deer Hunt – Carlton Martin, Palmhurst
Nilgai Antelope Safari – Carrie McCoy, Montgomery
Premium Buck Hunt – James Handley III, Campbell
Exotic Safari – Stanley Harris, Cypress
Whitetail Bonanza – John McCall, Arlington; Chris Fields, Corsicana; Phillip Lucky, Waxahachie; Justin Venable, Groesbeck; Darrell Dugas, Nederland
Big Time Bird Hunt – Richard Way, Christoval
Gator Hunt – Gerald Burch, Jr., Bynum
Texas Waterfowl Hunt – George (Kelley) Taylor, Corpus Christi
Wild Hog Adventure – Lance Lang, Minot, ND

All winners have been notified. Entries for next year’s Big Time Texas Hunts will go on sale May 15, 2020.

Big Time Texas Hunts is made possible with support from Toyota and the Texas Bighorn Society.

Sunday

Lifetime Hunting License Drawing

Win a Texas Lifetime Super Combo License




Enter the Lifetime License Drawing to win a Lifetime Super Combo License! This special license, an $1,800 value, gives you the privilege to hunt and fish in Texas without ever having to buy another state license.

There are two more chances to win: enter by October 31 or November 30. Winners will be drawn the next business day. Any entries not drawn will be automatically included in the next drawing. Only $5 per entry and you can enter as many times as you like! Purchase your entries wherever Texas hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

All proceeds from the Lifetime License Drawing fees go directly to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for on-the-ground conservation efforts that help make Texas one of the best places in the country to hunt and fish.

Lifetime License Drawing winners receive a Lifetime Super Combo License (an $1,800 value) and a 1-year subscription to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

Look here for more information.

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