Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission considers shift in deer, bird seasons
This past week, while hundreds of thousands of Texas hunters were gathering their gear and preparing for the opening of the 2011-12 deer and waterfowl seasons in most of the state, wildlife and fisheries managers were focused on the 2012-13 hunting seasons.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's regulations committee, state wildlife and fisheries staff briefed members on regulation changes they are considering proposing for 2012-13.
The package of potential proposals includes restructuring quail seasons and bag limits, allowing hunting for white-tailed deer in four counties currently having no open deer season and closing pheasant hunting in three coastal counties.
As is the case across the bobwhite quail's North American range, Texas' quail population continues on a long-term decline, with the grassland-dependent birds all but vanishing in East Texas and the Edwards Plateau and seeing steadily dropping numbers in most of the state. Texas' quail population, as gauged by the annual Breeding Bird Survey, has declined an average of almost 3 percent each year over the past 40 years.
The number of quail hunters and quail harvest has similarly declined. A quarter-million Texans hunted quail in the 1970s; that dropped as low as 50,000 in recent seasons. And quail harvest has seen an even more dramatic decline, falling to barely 20 percent what it was 30 years ago.
Texas' long-term quail decline, which managers blame mostly on fragmentation and loss of the diverse habitat the birds require, has been exacerbated by drought.