The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commission is considering a number of significant changes to hunting and fishing regulations in 2018. However, the Commission wants input from stakeholders and constituents in Texas before making any final decisions regarding these possible regulation changes.

Among other things, TPWD is looking at lengthening the whitetail deer season in Texas’ North Zone, allowing air guns and air bows for hunting big game and non-migratory birds, eliminating certain archery equipment requirements, establishing mule deer antler restrictions in the Texas Panhandle, increasing the bag limit for pintails, and modifying the bag limits for King Mackerel and Largemouth Bass. The state is also considering purchasing 214 acres of land in Aransas County to help preserve critical whooping crane habitat.

TPWD has posted details regarding all of these issues on its website and is accepting public comment on them until 7:00 a.m. on March 22. You may also comment in person at the TPWD headquarters in Austin during the commission meeting at 9:00 am on March 22.

The proposed changes to the whitetail deer season, the removal of certain minimum requirements for archery equipment, and the potential for mule deer antler restrictions are of particular interest to many big game hunters in the state.

Of these, the potential for a longer whitetail deer season in most of the state may be most significant change under consideration. Texas currently divides the state into two zones for whitetail deer seasons — the North Zone and the South Zone. Under the current regulations, the general deer season opens on the same date in both zones, but the season in the South Zone ends two weeks after deer season in the North Zone closes in January.

If the commission decides to adopt the new rules, hunters in the North Zone would get an additional two weeks of hunting so that the entire state would have a uniform whitetail deer general hunting season. Additionally, the state would still open the special late season, muzzleloader season, and late youth season immediately after the general deer season ends for 14 consecutive days. This would allow some hunters to stay afield pursuing deer into February.

Bow hunters should also pay particular attention to the changes under consideration for archery equipment. Current regulations require a minimum broadhead width of 7/8" with 2 cutting edges, a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds for crossbows, a minimum crossbow stock length of 25", and a requirement that all crossbows have a mechanical safety.

The TPWD Commission is looking at removing those requirements in an effort to remove barriers to entry and aid in the recruitment of new hunters by minimizing the complexity of the regulations.

In short, the staff within the TWPD making this proposal believe that hunter education, TPWD informational publications, the bow hunting industry, and hunting media in general are all more effective means of providing guidance on using the most effective archery equipment for big game hunting than current TWPD archery regulations.

Finally, mule deer hunters in the Texas Panhandle may have to abide by antler restrictions beginning this fall. In order to limit the harvest of young bucks and improve the overall age class of the mule deer population, TPWD is looking at establishing an experimental antler regulation for the next four years in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, and Motley Counties. If this regulation goes forward, hunters in those counties could only harvest mule deer bucks with at least a 20" outside spread starting this fall.

If you’re a hunter or angler in the Lone Star State, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the proposed changes to the hunting and fishing regulations. Regardless of whether you’re for or against to these proposals, leave a comment and let the TPWD Commission know what you think. This is your opportunity to have decision makers in the state hear your opinion. Just make sure you comment before the deadline on March 22.