2023 Updates to Hunting Regulations
Effective September 1, 2023
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
New CWD Zones Established: Additional Chronic Wasting Disease zones have been implemented in Texas to manage and monitor the disease. These new zones are located in Bexar, Frio, Gonzales, Hamilton, Sutton, Washington, and Zavala counties.
CWD Zone Modifications: The existing Chronic Wasting Disease zones in Duval, Gillespie, Limestone, and Uvalde counties have seen reductions in size, indicating adjustments based on surveillance data and disease management strategies.
Zone Details and Checkstations: Hunters are encouraged to stay informed about the specific boundaries, requirements, and operational details of CWD zones. Checkstations have designated dates and hours of operation that are crucial for compliance and disease control.
Buck & Antlerless Deer
- Mandatory Harvest Reporting: The requirement for mandatory harvest reporting continues for buck and antlerless deer in Collin, Dallas, Grayson, and Rockwall counties. Additionally, mandatory reporting for antlerless deer has been extended to 21 counties in south central Texas. This measure helps in managing deer populations and studying harvest rates.
- Aerial Management with Drones: New regulations now allow permit holders engaged in aerial wildlife management to use drones for hunting feral hogs at night. This update reflects technological advancements and provides more flexible methods for controlling feral hog populations, which are a significant ecological and agricultural issue in Texas.
Outdoor Annual Advertisers
- Information Access: Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts should look out for the Outdoor Annual, which provides comprehensive details on rules, regulations, and other important information for the hunting season. Advertisers in the Outdoor Annual often include relevant products, services, and additional resources beneficial to the hunting community.
Texas' Unlawful Hunting and Fishing Activities
Prohibited Activities in Wildlife Conservation
- Wildlife Resources Violations: It is illegal to capture, attempt, or possess wildlife outside the specified limits or methods outlined in official guides or laws. This includes size, number, means, timing, and location of taking wildlife.
- Public Road Restrictions: Hunting on public roads or the adjacent right-of-way is prohibited, with exceptions for certain reptiles and amphibians.
- Firearm Safety: Unsecured firearms must not be accessible to children unsupervised. Minors under 17 may hunt with firearms if accompanied by a legal, educated adult or if they've completed hunter education.
- Navigable Streams: Driving in the bed of navigable freshwater streams is generally illegal except for approved local river access plans or specific exempted areas.
Property and Landowner Rights
- Private Waters and Lands: Fishing in private waters or from private land in public water, as well as hunting on private lands, requires explicit permission from the owner or their agent.
- Entry Without Permission: It is illegal to enter agricultural, fenced, or clearly marked private property without the owner's explicit permission. Purple paint marks, signs, or postings are legitimate indications of prohibited access.
- Landowner Consent for Hunting: Hunting any animal without the landowner's consent is illegal, with specific emphasis on desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, and mule deer, where violations can result in state jail felony charges and automatic revocation of hunting and fishing licenses.
- Public Road Firearm Discharge: Discharging firearms on or across public roads is strictly forbidden.
- Roadkill Possession: Possessing a deer or any part of a deer that has been hit by a motor vehicle is unlawful.
Personal Identification Requirements for Outdoor Activities
In Texas, any individual 17 years of age or older participating in hunting, fishing, or trapping activities is mandated to possess a valid form of personal identification. This rule specifically requires carrying a driver’s license or a personal identification certificate while engaged in these activities. The personal identification certificate must be issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
For non-residents, the requirement remains consistent with a slight variation. They must carry a comparable document that serves the same purpose as a driver's license or personal identification certificate. However, it should be issued by an authoritative agency in their home state or country, which is responsible for issuing driving or personal identification documents.
A game warden who observes a person engaged in an activity governed by the Parks and Wildlife Code or reason- ably believes that a person is or has been engaged in such an activity may inspect:
- any license, permit, tag, or other document issued by the department and required by the Parks and Wildlife Code of a person hunting or catching wildlife resources;
- any device that may be used to hunt or catch a wildlife resource;
- any wildlife resource in the person's possession; and
- the contents of any container or receptacle that is commonly used to store or conceal a wildlife resource.
Waste of Game
In the realm of hunting, the concept of "Waste of Game" is taken very seriously as an ethical and legal responsibility. It is classified as a Class C misdemeanor when a hunter, after hunting, fails to reasonably attempt to retrieve any killed or wounded game bird or animal, and to include it in their daily or seasonal bag limit. This law ensures respect for the animal and discourages wasteful or unethical hunting practices.
Furthermore, it is also considered an offense if an individual intentionally or through negligence allows the edible portions of a game bird, game animal, or fish to spoil or become inedible. This rule emphasizes the importance of responsible consumption and utilization of wildlife resources. The intention is to ensure that hunters and anglers value the life taken and utilize the meat for sustenance, reflecting a respect for natural resources.
The regulations tighten significantly, elevating to a Class A misdemeanor, for specific cases involving white-tailed or mule deer, pronghorn, or desert bighorn sheep. This higher level of misdemeanor applies if the animal is not retrieved or kept in edible condition under circumstances including hunting without the landowner's consent, using vehicles, boats, or aircraft (including drones) on public roads, hunting at night, or utilizing artificial light. These conditions are typically associated with unfair or unsportsmanlike hunting practices and therefore carry stricter penalties.
Retrieval of Game and Hunting Dogs: Property Entry Laws
In the context of hunting and retrieving game or hunting dogs, it's imperative to understand and respect property rights. No individual is legally permitted to enter privately owned land to pursue wounded game, retrieve dogs, or for any other reason without first obtaining explicit consent from the landowner. This regulation upholds private property rights and ensures respect for landowners while also addressing potential safety and liability concerns.
Before pursuing wounded game or attempting to retrieve a dog that has entered private property, hunters are required to contact the landowner or the person in lawful control of the land to ask permission to enter. This applies to all types of property, including posted and non-posted land. Failure to obtain permission can result in trespassing charges, which carry legal consequences.
Regulations on Sale of Inedible Wildlife Parts
The sale of certain inedible wildlife parts is permissible under specific regulations, provided these items are lawfully obtained. This law aims to regulate and monitor the use of animal parts, ensuring that wildlife is used responsibly and ethically. Here are the guidelines for what may be sold or purchased:
- Permitted Parts: Individuals may buy or sell the hair, hide, antlers, bones, horns, skull, hooves, or sinew of certain game animals.
- Applicable Animals: This includes parts from mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and javelina.
- Permitted Parts: Feathers, bones, or feet of certain game birds can be used, purchased, or sold.
- Applicable Birds and Uses: This includes turkey, pheasant, quail, and chachalaca. These parts are typically utilized for making fishing flies, pillows, mattresses, and other similar commercial items.
Restrictions on Migratory Birds:
- Prohibited Sales: It is illegal to buy or sell feathers from migratory birds for purposes such as making hats or ornaments. Furthermore, one cannot purchase or sell mounted specimens of migratory game birds, or any of their parts, that were taken by hunting.
Sportsmen's Rights Act: Harassment Protections
The Sportsmen's Rights Act, as outlined in the Parks and Wildlife Code §62.0125, provides legal protections for hunters, trappers, and anglers against harassment. Recognizing the lawful pursuit of hunting, trapping, and fishing as legitimate activities, this act ensures that individuals engaging in these activities are protected from interference, harassment, or intimidation.
Protection Scope: The Act specifically guards against any actions that aim to disturb, interrupt, or engage in conduct that negatively affects the lawful hunting, trapping, or fishing activities. This includes any attempt to prevent or hinder these activities through direct physical action, noise, or other forms of disturbance.
Penalties: Individuals found guilty of harassing hunters, trappers, or anglers may face significant penalties. The law stipulates a fine ranging from $200 to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail. These penalties reflect the seriousness with which the law views the disruption of lawful outdoor sporting activities.
Hunter orange is recommended for hunter safety but is not required while hunting on private property.
Consequences of Violating Fish and Wildlife Laws
Violating fish and wildlife laws can lead to severe legal repercussions, including:
- Class C: $25 - $500
- Class B: $200 - $2,000
- Class A: $500 - $4,000
State Jail Felonies:
- Fines ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 and/or up to 2 years in jail.
License Suspension or Revocation:
- Offenders may face automatic suspension or revocation of hunting and fishing licenses for up to five years.
Forfeiture of Equipment:
- Hunting gear and firearms used in committing the violation may be confiscated.
In addition to criminal penalties, the department seeks civil recovery for the loss or damage to wildlife resources. This civil restitution aims to compensate for the value of the wildlife harmed or illegally taken. Non-payment of civil restitution can lead to:
- Refusal by the department to issue any future licenses, tags, or permits.
- Engaging in hunting or fishing activities without settling civil restitution can result in a Class A misdemeanor, leading to a $500 - $4,000 fine, up to one year in jail, or both.
Individuals who wish to have their hunting or fishing license privileges reinstated after revocation or suspension must:
- Apply for license privilege reinstatement.
- Pay a reinstatement fee of $100.
Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC)
Texas is a participant in the IWVC, which is an agreement among various states to:
- Share information about individuals who violate wildlife conservation laws.
- Deny licenses and permits to individuals with outstanding violations in member states.
This compact ensures that violators cannot simply move to another state to avoid the consequences of their actions.