Lubbock and surrounding area counties– Lubbock district Game Wardens will be dedicating extra patrol hours and state assets to the Mule Deer season which occurs in southwestern panhandle counties and runs this year from November 23rd -December 1st. Also, with the new season comes new a law regarding antler restrictions in Lynn County.
The west Texas mule deer attracts hunters from across the state and around the country into the southern plains to have a chance at harvesting a buck. The nine-day general season is open to hunters with a valid Texas hunting license and permission to hunt on property. Legal harvesting methods include the use of permitted firearms, or archery equipment. The bag limit is one buck per legal hunter, and does not allow the take of a mule deer doe unless a special MLD permit is obtained.
Lubbock district public information officer Aaron Sims says this is one of the busiest times of the season, and as such they have requested additional state assets. “The calls for service for local wardens dramatically increase during the nine days which also spans the Thanksgiving holiday. With our wardens covering a vast amount of territory answering calls, it is essential we bring in additional units from across the state to assist our district. Those wardens will work directly with local officers and county law enforcement to deter illegal hunting activities.” Sims also acknowledges that even with the additional assistance, illegal hunting may occur outside the presence of the wardens. As such, he is asking the public to be extra vigilant in the coming weeks.
Among the general violations, wardens will be enforcing a minimum antler restriction width in certain panhandle counties. Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Hall, Motley, and Lynn counties will have the restrictions in effect. A legal buck deer is defined as a buck with an outside spread 20 inches or greater. Any buck for which the outside spread of the main beams is less than 20 inches is NOT legal to harvest. Any buck with at least one unbranched antler (e.g., spike) is NOT legal to harvest, unless the outside spread of the main beams is at least 20 inches in width. This will be the first year Lynn County has adopted these regulations. Due to the new law, wardens have worked with local landowners, media, and area hunters to educate prior to the season opener.
As with prior years, the wardens will have the Texas Parks and Wildlife airplane to spot potential suspects from the air. Sims explains that having the eyes in the sky is important for the wide open rural geographic area. The pilot and spotter will be able to fly over the vast area and call out specific coordinates of suspected poachers to the wardens patrolling on the ground. The airplane, which will fly both during the day and night, will allow the wardens to see for miles in effort to deter illegal hunting activities. Additionally, Texas game wardens will be coordinating with their counterparts with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish when state line issues arise.
The increased enforcement marks the sixth year in a row that game wardens from other parts of Texas are being called in to assist. The potential violations range from improperly tagged deer, to more serious violations such as hunting deer at night, and hunting on property without landowner consent. Hunting deer without consent carries a punishment of a state jail felony and potential loss of hunting and fishing privileges in Texas and other US states. Area wide landowners and citizens are encouraged to report any and all game violations that occur. The public can access their local game warden’s contact information online, or they can anonymously report to Operation Game Thief hotline by calling 1-800-792-4263 (GAME).