White-tailed Deer Hunting Regulations Overview
Statewide Bag Limits
In the pursuit of white-tailed deer, hunters must adhere to specific bag limits set at the county level. A crucial aspect to note is the statewide annual bag limit, which restricts a hunter to a maximum of five white-tailed deer, with a stipulation that no more than three of these can be bucks. However, this rule has an exception for properties under the Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP), where this annual limit does not apply.
It's essential for hunters to verify the bag limits specific to their county. These limits can vary and are critical for maintaining responsible hunting practices and deer population control.
Mandatory Harvest Reporting for Antlerless White-tailed Deer
A significant regulation that hunters must be aware of involves mandatory reporting for the harvest of antlerless white-tailed deer in selected counties. This rule applies to deer harvested during various seasons - archery, youth-only, muzzleloader, and on the designated four antlerless deer days in the general season. The reporting must be completed within 24 hours following the harvest.
Hunters have two methods for reporting:
- Mobile App Reporting: Utilize the “My Texas Hunt Harvest” app, available on both iOS and Android platforms.
- Online Reporting: Report the harvest through an online portal accessible via a web browser.
This rule is enforced in the following counties: Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Comal (East of I-35), De Witt, Fayette, Goliad (North of US 59), Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays (East of I-35), Jackson (north of US 59), Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Travis (East of I-35), Victoria (North of US 59), Waller, Washington, Wharton (North of US 59), and Wilson.
Defining Buck Deer
For regulatory and tagging purposes, understanding the definition of a buck deer is crucial. A buck is identified by the presence of a hardened antler protruding through the skin. It's important to note that deer with antlers still in velvet (but protruding through the skin) also fall under the category of buck deer. When tagging, a buck deer must be tagged appropriately with a buck deer tag or an applicable tag or permit. In contrast, all other deer, irrespective of their sex, are classified as antlerless for tagging purposes.
Understanding Special Antler Restrictions
Antler Restrictions in Designated Counties
In certain counties, special antler restrictions are in place to manage and conserve the deer population effectively. Under these restrictions, hunters are limited to harvesting two legal bucks, with a key stipulation: only one of these bucks may have an inside antler spread of 13 inches or greater.
Criteria for a Legal Buck Deer
A buck deer is considered legal under these restrictions if it meets one of the following criteria:
- Unbranched Antler: The deer has at least one unbranched antler.
- Inside Spread: The deer has an inside spread of 13 inches or greater. This criterion does not apply if the buck has an unbranched antler.
Prohibition on Harvesting Certain Bucks
It's illegal to harvest more than one buck that either has an inside spread of 13 inches or greater or possesses branched antlers on both main beams. If a hunter harvests a buck that doesn't comply with these antler restrictions, they are then prohibited from taking any buck with branched antlers on both main beams in that county for the remainder of the hunting season.
Estimating Inside Spread
To estimate a buck's inside spread:
- Observe the distance between the tips of its ears when they are in the "alert" position.
- If the inside spread of the antlers extends beyond the ear tips, it is likely at least 13 inches.
Determining Inside Spread
To determine if a buck's inside spread is at least 13 inches, visually measure the distance from ear-tip to ear-tip when the buck's ears are in the "alert" position. This measurement is a practical guide to assess compliance with the antler restriction.
What Constitutes a Point
A point on a deer's antler is defined as any projection that extends at least one inch from the edge of a main beam or another tine. The tip of the main beam itself is also considered a point.
Checking County-Specific Regulations
Hunters should verify their county's specific regulations regarding antler restrictions. These rules vary by location and are crucial for legal and ethical hunting practices.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management in Texas
Overview of Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a serious, fatal condition affecting white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and red deer in certain areas of Texas. Recognizing the gravity of this disease, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has established specific zones, known as CWD Zones, to monitor and control its spread.
Mandatory Check-in Requirements in CWD Zones
For hunters in Texas, it's imperative to understand and comply with the following regulations when hunting in CWD Zones:
- Species Affected: The regulation applies to hunters harvesting mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, or any other exotic species susceptible to CWD.
- Mandatory Check Stations: Hunters must bring their harvested animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of the harvest.
- Receipt Requirement: It is mandatory to check each harvested animal at these stations and obtain a CWD receipt. This receipt is required before transporting any part of the animal (including meat or quartered parts) out of the CWD Zone.
Dynamic Nature of CWD Zones and Regulations
- Potential for Additional Zones: Be aware that additional CWD Zones may be established at any time throughout the state if new cases of CWD are discovered.
- Regulation Updates: TPWD is committed to promptly informing the public about any new CWD Zones, check stations, or special regulations. However, due to the evolving nature of this issue, hunters are advised to stay informed by regularly checking updates.
- Sources for Updates: For the latest information on CWD Zones and regulations, hunters can call TPWD at (800) 792-1112 or visit the department's CWD information pages online.
Voluntary Testing Outside CWD Zones
- Testing Option: Hunters who harvest a CWD-susceptible species outside of designated CWD Zones and wish to have their animal tested for CWD can contact a local wildlife biologist.
Reporting Symptomatic Animals
- Reporting Responsibility: Any sightings or harvests of animals showing symptoms indicative of CWD should be promptly reported to local Texas Game Wardens or a Wildlife Biologist.
- Locating Check Stations and Learning More: Hunters can find information about check station locations, view maps of CWD Zones, and access comprehensive details about CWD by visiting TPWD's designated resources.
Proper Deer Tagging Procedure
Essential Tagging Steps
Tagging a harvested deer correctly is a crucial aspect of responsible hunting. To comply with the regulations, hunters must adhere to the following guidelines:
Tag Attachment: The tag from the hunter's license must be completed accurately (including the name of the property and county) and attached to the deer immediately after the harvest. This is applicable except in cases where properties have their own issued tags, like MLDP tags.
Type of Deer and Tag Usage: Hunters must use the specific type of tag for the deer they have harvested. For instance, buck tags are exclusively for buck deer, and antlerless tags are for antlerless deer.
Date of Kill: The month and date of the kill must be clearly indicated on the tag. This is done by notching the respective month and day. Hunters should avoid using ink to mark the date.
Immediate Completion of Tag: The appropriate tag on the hunting license must be completed, dated, and notched immediately after the deer is harvested and before any other actions (like field dressing or moving the deer) are taken.
Logging Information: After harvesting the deer, but before field dressing or moving it, hunters must complete the log in ink on the back of their hunting license. The log includes an asterisk indication for bucks with an inside main beam spread of at least 13 inches. Note that the log completion is not required for mule deer or white-tailed deer lawfully taken under a MLDP tag, TPWD Special Drawn Public Hunt permit, or on a Big Time Texas Hunt.
Tag Placement on the Deer
- Attachment Location: The tag can be attached to any part of the deer where it will remain secure and visible, ensuring it is not damaged, defaced, or lost during transportation or handling.
- Tag Requirements Until Quartering: The appropriate tag or permit must stay attached to the deer until it reaches its final destination and is quartered.
- Handling of the Deer’s Head: If the deer’s head is severed from the carcass, the tag must remain attached to the carcass. In cases where the head does not accompany the carcass, a Wildlife Resource Document (WRD) must accompany the head.
- Separation of Head and Carcass: In situations where the head and carcass are separated, remember that the hunting license tag should be attached to the meat, and the WRD should accompany the head.
- License Tag Description: Hunters should carefully read the tag use description on their license before attaching it to the harvested deer to ensure full compliance with the regulations.
Guidelines for Special Late Season Deer Hunting
Overview of Special Late Season
The Special Late Season in certain counties offers unique opportunities and restrictions for deer hunting. This season specifically focuses on the harvest of antlerless deer and unbranched antlered deer. Understanding the criteria for these categories is crucial for hunters participating in this season.
Definition of Antlerless and Unbranched Antlered Deer
Antlerless Deer: These are deer without antlers or with antlers so small they are not visible above the hairline.
Unbranched Antlered Deer: This category includes bucks with at least one antler that does not have more than one point.
Understanding What Constitutes a Point
- Definition of a Point: A point is defined as a projection that extends at least one inch from the edge of a main beam or another tine of the antler. Importantly, the tip of the main beam itself is also counted as a point.
Compliance with Local Regulations
County-Specific Regulations: Hunters are advised to verify the detailed regulations applicable to their specific county. These regulations can vary and are important for legal and ethical hunting practices.
Resource for Regulations: Hunters can find this information on official wildlife management websites or through local wildlife agencies.
Importance of Following Special Late Season Rules
Adhering to these regulations during the Special Late Season is essential for the following reasons:
- Wildlife Management: These rules help in managing the deer population effectively and sustainably.
- Legal Compliance: Following the specified guidelines ensures that hunters are in compliance with state and local laws.
- Conservation Efforts: These regulations are often part of broader conservation strategies to maintain healthy deer populations and ecosystems.
Youth-Only Deer Seasons: Essential Guidelines
Age Eligibility for Youth-Only Seasons
- Age Limit: The youth-only deer seasons are exclusively designed for licensed hunters who are 16 years old or younger. This provides a unique opportunity for young hunters to engage in deer hunting under regulated conditions.
Concurrent Seasons and Hunting Methods
- Concurrent Seasons: Youth-only seasons may overlap with other deer seasons, such as Archery, Muzzleloader, or Special Late Seasons. However, these youth-only seasons do not restrict others from hunting under the rules of the overlapping seasons.
- Method Restrictions: While most hunting methods are allowed, there are specific restrictions in Collin, Dallas, Grayson, and Rockwall counties, where only lawful archery equipment is permitted.
Bag Limits and Harvesting Rules
- General Bag Limits and Rules: The bag limits, types of bucks that may be harvested (branched, unbranched antler, or both), tagging requirements, and any special requirements (like antler restrictions or mandatory harvest reporting) during the youth-only season align with the regulations of the first two days of the general season statewide for that county.
Special Rules in Certain Counties
- Specific Counties with Different Regulations: In Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Comal (East of I-35), De Witt, Fayette, Goliad (North of US 59), Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays (East of I-35), Jackson (north of US 59), Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Travis (East of I-35), Victoria (North of US 59), Waller, Washington, Wharton (North of US 59), and Wilson counties, the regulations for antlerless deer are consistent with those in place during the period of November 26 - November 29 for each respective county.
- Rest of the State: In other parts of the state, the bag, tag, and permit requirements remain the same as for the first two days of the general season in the county.
Importance of Checking Local Regulations
- County-Specific Information: It is crucial for youth hunters and their guardians to check the detailed regulations specific to their county. These rules can vary and are important for legal and ethical hunting practices.
Hunting on Federal Lands: Key Guidelines and Regulations
Understanding Your Responsibility
- Knowledge of Regulations: Hunters must be aware of and comply with all applicable federal and state regulations when hunting on federal lands. This includes areas managed by the Forest Service, National Recreation Areas, the Corps of Engineers, and similar entities.
Specific Regulations on Federal Lands
LBJ National Grasslands (Montague and Wise Counties):
- Antlerless Deer: Here, the taking of antlerless deer is permitted only during the archery, youth-only seasons, and the specific 4-day season known as "doe days."
US Forest Service (USFS) Lands:
- Antlerless Deer Restrictions: On USFS lands, antlerless deer may only be harvested during the archery, muzzleloader, and youth-only seasons.
Additional Regulations on Governmental Lands
- Broader Scope of Lands: The regulations extend beyond just USFS lands and include properties managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, River Authorities, and other governmental (federal, state, or local) entities.
- Responsibility of the Hunter: It's the hunter's responsibility to determine any additional regulations or requirements that may be applicable when hunting on these lands.
US Forest Service and Public Hunting Program
Managed Properties: Certain USFS properties are managed by TPWD through the Public Hunting Program. These include:
- Alabama Creek WMA
- Bannister WMA
- Caddo National Grasslands WMA
- Moore Plantation WMA
- Sam Houston National Forest WMA
- Special Permits for Antlerless Deer: On these properties, the taking of antlerless deer is allowed through special drawn hunt permits.
Hunting on Other Federal and Governmental Lands
- U.S. Forest Service (USFS): Adheres to specific guidelines for wildlife management and hunting.
- Army Corps of Engineers: Often manages water resources and recreational areas with their own set of hunting regulations.
- River Authority: Manages river systems and adjacent lands, which may include specific hunting rules.