The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commission approved a few changes to hunting and fishing regulations at the recent Commission Meeting on March 22 in Austin. As discussed in a previous article, the TPWD Commission was considering numerous changes to the hunting and fishing regulations ranging from lengthening the whitetail deer season in Texas' North Zone, to allowing air guns and air bows for hunting big game, to adjusting the dove season dates in the state.

We'll start with the bad news: The TPWD Commission did not elect to lengthen the general deer season in Texas' North Zone. Despite overwhelming public comments in favor of the new season dates — over 91 percent of approximately 2,800 comments supported the measure the commissioners ultimately decided not to make the change.

Their primary concern was that the longer deer season might interfere with squirrel, waterfowl, quail and varmint hunting. Of these groups, quail hunters in the Texas Panhandle were particularly opposed to the measure with the TWPD Upland Game Bird Advisory Board, Quail Forever and the Quail Coalition all coming out against the proposed new season.

The Texas quail season runs from the last Saturday in October through the last Sunday in February. In many parts of the state, but principally in the panhandle, many landowners only allow quail hunting on their property after deer season ends. For that reason, some quail hunters were concerned that lengthening deer season by two weeks would effectively take those two weeks from quail season.

One of the primary justifications given for lengthening deer season was that the increased deer hunting opportunities from the longer season would aid in the "three R's" (recruitment, retention and reactivating) of hunter participation. However, the TPWD Commission ultimately decided that the potential harm the longer season could cause to Texas' quail hunting heritage and participation would outweigh the benefits of the longer deer season.

While it's possible that Texas could end up with a longer deer season in the North Zone at some point in the future, TPWD will probably only make that change if the new deer season adequately addresses the concerns of quail hunters. In any case, the 2018 deer season dates in Texas' North Zone will remain unchanged from previous years with an opening date of the first Saturday in November and a closing date of the first Sunday in January.

On the other hand, the TPWD Commission approved the use of air guns and air bows for hunting big game and upland birds. Starting this fall, hunters may use air guns and air bows .30 caliber and larger for hunting big game and turkey and .177 caliber and greater for hunting upland birds and squirrels. Air guns and air bows will not be permitted for hunting migratory birds.

Additionally, the commission also approved some changes to dove season dates intended to increase hunter opportunity. The total length of the dove season will not change, but TPWD is modifying the dates of the fall and winter dove seasons in the South Zone so that the fall season begins earlier. As a result, this year's dove season in the South Zone will begin Sept. 14, which is the earliest start to dove season in that part of the state in decades.

With all of these changes to the regulations (plus a few more that weren't discussed in this article), it's quite possible that things you've done in the past may no longer be legal. So, make sure you read up on the new regulations before heading out afield this summer and fall so you don't run into any problems with the law.