Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

OpEd

Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005

Senator Lucio promotes hunting safety in Texas

October marks the second month of a special season for outdoor types: Texas hunters.

Wildlife Biologist Joe Herrera from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, South Texas District, says, "We're fortunate and somewhat unique in South Texas in that we have available to hunters all the major game species--deer, quail, dove (both whitewing and mourning dove), turkey, and waterfowl. Other parts of the state have unique game animals--West Texas has pronghorn antelope, for example. But South Texas is distinctive in terms of game species diversity. We also have a slightly longer hunting season than most other parts of the state."

The variety and uniqueness of hunting here and elsewhere should never overshadow the most important element of hunting--safety. Knowing all the hunting guidelines should help ensure the highest degree of safety possible. That's why the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) requires anyone born after September 2, 1971, who wishes to participate in this sport, to complete a hunter safety course. TPWD has certified more than 690,000 Texans since 1972, teaching hunting safety, skills and responsibility.

A youngster between the ages of 12 and 16 must complete the course or be accompanied while hunting. A child under 12 must always be accompanied. Those 17 and over must successfully complete the course, or purchase a one-time-only "Hunter Education Deferral" and be accompanied. Accompanied means within normal voice control of a person who is at least 17, who is licensed to hunt in Texas and has passed hunter education, or is exempt by law. (People born before Sept. 2, 1971 are exempt from mandatory hunter education.)

Last year Texas introduced a new program allowing people to purchase a one-time hunter education "Temporary Deferral" for $10. Participants may take the hunter education course prior to the end of the current license year and receive a $5 discount off the course.

Hunters must carry proof of course certification or "Hunter Education Deferral" while hunting. Persons who successfully complete the hunter education course obtain a certification card good for life and honored in other states and jurisdictions requiring hunter education. Although one must carry the certification card while hunting, it is not required when purchasing a license.

Partly as a result of hunter education, which became legal in 1988, Texas hunting accident rates have steadily decreased from a high of more than 12 accidents per 100,000 hunters in 1966 to below five accidents per 100,000 hunters in recent years. Every year, TPWD issues about 2.1 million recreational hunting and fishing licenses. All 2004-2005 hunting and fishing licenses expired on August 31, so prospective hunters need to renew their licenses for this year.

A single annual resident hunting license costs $23, a resident freshwater fishing license costs $28, and a resident saltwater license costs $33. Many hunters and anglers opt for the Super Combo license, which costs $64 and provides all licenses and stamps required to hunt or fish in Texas. Seniors can purchase the Super Combo license for $30, or a combination hunting and fishing license for $14.

Residents may also buy hunting and fishing licenses valid for the lifetime of the license holder. These can be obtained by calling TPWD toll-free at 800-792-1112 (menu 4). Lifetime Resident Combination Hunting and Fishing licenses cost $1,000; Lifetime Resident Hunting licenses cost $600; and Lifetime Resident Fishing licenses cost $600. I encourage all hunters and anglers to go to any of the TPWD authorized outlets or call the toll-free license hotline, 800-895-4248, to obtain these licenses.

To attract beginners to outdoor activities, TPWD has created weekend getaways targeting novices. The popular Becoming An Outdoors-Woman workshop series which began 13 years ago has since graduated 2,567 women and developed a database of more than 13,000 women interested in continuing their outdoor experiences through the Texas Outdoor Women's Network (TOWN).

This fall, TPWD started a new program called Becoming an Outdoors-Family--look for workshop dates and locations to be announced by TPWD in coming months.

Mr. Herrera also comments that South Texas has reasonably priced public hunting grounds. He mentions "three TPWD Wildlife Management Areas (WMA): Chaparral WMA near Cotulla, Daughtrey WMA around Choke Canyon Reservoir and the extensive network of properties spread throughout the Valley that make up the Las Palomas WMA. We also have about 30 private properties that TPWD has leased this fall for public dove hunting spread across South Texas. Hunters can access any of these WMAs or leased properties with a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, available wherever hunting licenses are sold."

For additional information on hunting and fishing in Texas, or to find out about TPWD programs and the 2005 calendar, please visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Safe Hunting! Editor's Note: As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary at my office in Austin at 512-463-0385.

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