Citing the possibility of conflicts between white-tailed deer hunters and quail hunters in the Rolling Plains region, the Texas Parks Wildlife Commission recently nixed a wildlife staff proposal to extend the general deer season by two weeks in the state’s North Zone, despite overwhelming public support in favor of the change.
A two-week extension would have created a North Zone deer season window running from the first Saturday in November through the third Sunday in January, while creating uniformity in season length between the North and South deer hunting zones.
An extended deer season also would have resulted in a two-week overlap with the statewide quail season in the Rolling Plains, which runs from the last Saturday of October though the last Sunday of February. South Zone deer hunters and quail hunters been sharing the field through most of January for years.
The proposal to extend the North Zone deer season came about as the result of a formal petition for rule making filed last spring by Clint Hughey of Boerne. TPWD’s wildlife staff moved forward with the proposal because it would not negatively impact the deer herd, but would boost hunter opportunity while creating uniformity in hunter regulations.
Numbering close to 740,000, deer hunters are largest constituent group in TPWD’s hunting community by far. The majority of them play the game in the 222-county North Zone and they dump mucho bucks into local economies. Deer hunting is a serious cash cow in Texas, generating about $1.8 billion annually in economic impact, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife reports.
By comparison, TPWD’s 2016-17 Small Game Harvest Survey indicates there are about 91,000 quail statewide.
TPWD white-tailed deer program leader, Alan Cain, says the proposal to extend the North Zone deer season drew a landslide of public support. Cain said the department received about 2,830 public comments regarding the proposal, of which 2,573 (91 percent) were in favor.
Cain said 257 comments (9 percent) opposed the regulation change, 48 of which were not in support specifically because of perceived impacts to quail season in the Rolling Plains area.
“The Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee did not support the deer season standardization for fear it could adversely impact quail hunting opportunities and quail hunter recruitment,” Cain said. “The Quail Coalition organization also did not support the proposal for similar reasons.”
Commissioners obviously put way more stock in the opinions of the minority than the majority when they voted unanimously on this one. Or so it seems.