From Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
-- Young hunters will be taking the first shots of the 2008-09 Texas hunting seasons during upcoming special youth-only seasons and state wildlife officials say range conditions and wildlife populations are ripe for success in the field.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has set aside the weekend of Oct. 25-26, as special youth-only seasons for white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey and waterfowl in the North and South Duck Zones, to encourage adults to share the hunting experience with the next generation of hunters. Young duck hunters in the Panhandle will get the weekend of Oct. 18-19.
"These special weekends provide an opportunity for families to devote some time afield with the kids and pass on Texas' hunting heritage to the next generation," said Mike Berger, TPWD wildlife division director. "We're seeing an abundance of wildlife across the state this year and there's never been a better time to get a youngster involved in hunting."
During the statewide special youth-only hunting weekend, licensed youth 16 years of age or younger will be allowed to harvest white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey.
A Special Youth Hunting License ($6) is required and may be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold, as well as online and by phone at 1-800-TX-LIC-4U for an additional convenience fee.
During the special youth-only weekend for white-tailed deer, the bag limit, taking of antlerless deer and special requirements for the following counties will be the same as the period Nov. 27-30 for youth hunters in Bowie, Brazos, Camp, Cherokee, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Grayson, Gregg, Grimes, Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Madison, Morris, Red River, Robertson, Rusk, Titus, Upshur and Wood counties.
For youth hunting in the remainder of the state, bag limits are the same as during the first two days of the general hunting season in the county.
Hunting for ducks, mergansers and coots during the youth-only season will be limited to youngsters 15 years of age or younger and no state or federal waterfowl endorsements (stamps) are required. Bag limits under the Hunter's Choice program apply. Popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl hunting along the coast will be open for the special youth-only season.
TPWD has made an extra effort to open as much public hunting land as possible to youth hunting. Information about youth hunting opportunities in Texas, including a listing of available public hunting locations during the special youth-only weekends, is available on the TPWD Web site.
In addition to the special youth-only weekend season opportunities, quail season also opens Oct. 25 statewide.
TPWD also offers adults accompanied by young hunters the chance to take the first shots on one of the state's premier wildlife management areas. The Chaparral WMA holds an adult/youth dove and quail hunt on Oct. 18-19. For more information call 830-676-3413.
Youth who are hunting on TPWD lands must be accompanied by a supervising adult 18 years of age or older who possesses the required Annual Public Hunting permit, a valid hunting license and any required stamps and permits and meets hunter education requirements.
The Annual Public Hunting Permit is a $48 permit, valid from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 of the following year. The permit allows an adult access to designated public hunting lands in the TPWD public hunting lands program. Hunting is allowed for small game, turkey, white-tailed deer, exotics, predators, furbearers, and fishing without having to pay daily permit fees and in most instances, without having to be selected in a drawing.
Along with the appropriate Texas hunting licenses and stamps, permit holders may take youth under age 17 hunting free of charge on these public hunting lands.
Hunter education certification is strongly recommended for young hunters, but if not certified they must be accompanied by someone who is at least 17, who is certified or exempt. In Texas, the minimum age that a young hunter may be certified is 9. All hunters 17 and older born after Sept. 1, 1971, are required to have successfully completed a certified hunter education course in order to legally hunt in Texas. A list of upcoming hunter education classes and options for certification is available on the TPWD website.
Regardless of their hunting experience, parents interested in introducing their kids to hunting can find mentoring opportunities through the Texas Youth Hunting Program. The program is a partnership between TPWD and the Texas Wildlife Association to provide youth hunting opportunities on private lands. More information about the program, including a schedule of upcoming youth hunts and applications are available online or by calling 800-460-5494.