Hunting is a lot more than just being a successful shot. Whether they see themselves that way or not, hunters are actually conservationists. Tax money they pay on equipment, along with their hunting license fees, goes back to support management, underwrite law enforcement and preserve habitat.
The money they pay in access fees gives value to the wildlife and helps landowners make decisions when it comes to protecting or removing habitat. And in many cases a big part of what a hunter does helps control wildlife populations.
With that hunters are rewarded with life-long memories along with quality meat for the table, whether it is theirs or the needy that are recipients of meat donations.
Part of being a hunter is following the rules, whether it is ethical hunting or legal regulations. Designed as safeguards for wildlife, there is a long list of rules and regulations that must be followed. Although cumbersome at times, ethical hunters accept the myriad of regulations if it means it helps game wardens weed out game hogs.
Hunting the opening weekend of dove season in North Central Texas, I heard about some hunters who for some reason did not have their plug in their shotgun limiting it to three shells maximum for migratory birds. There were also a few that had not signed the back of their license as required. These more often than not are simple oversights. Other violations can often be the result of a misunderstanding of the law, but unfortunately there are always going to be some who just will not follow the law.
For the most part hunters understand the rules when it comes to big game like white-tailed deer. It is with migratory and upland game birds that the confusion of what is right and wrong sets in, but they are important to wildlife conservation. When simplified most regulations are commonsense rules designed to allow wardens to do their jobs while letting hunters enjoy themselves.
With the help of Stormy King, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assistant commander for wildlife enforcement, here are some scenarios hunters often face, and what they legally can do:
You already dove hunted three days and brought back three limits. You plan to go again, but have not cooked the birds you killed. Can you bring more home?
Absolutely you can go on multiple trips to hunt migratory birds and stockpile them in your freezer. The three-day possession limit for dove and ducks is a trip regulation. Once you get to your personal residence the counter resets.
In this case, however, a hunting camp, tent, motel, lodge, etc., does not count as a residence.
You dove hunted or quail hunted a day or two and got your limit. You are headed back to the field another day. Can you keep the birds previously taken in your ice chest in your truck?
Again the answer is yes, but it comes with some guidelines. It is legal to have up to the three-day possession limit in a hunting camp, lodge or vehicle (ice chest) while continuing to hunt.
Each day’s birds should be kept in an individual bag marked with the hunter’s name, address, hunting license number, date taken, species and number taken. It is suggested you leave your ice chest in your vehicle and not use it as a stool in the field.
As an aside, it is not required to separate Eurasian collared doves in which there is not bag or possession limit, nor is it required to leave a wing on the birds. However, if you have killed enough mourning or white-winged doves where the addition of the Eurasians would make it look like you are over the limit, it might be good to put them in a separate bag appropriately marked. Also, if you are cleaning birds in the field it would not hurt to leave a wing on a Eurasian for identification until you get back to camp or home.
You had a good dove or duck hunt with family and friends and would like a picture for posterity. Can you put all the birds in a pile and smile for the camera?
Say cheese. While this might look like co-mingling of birds it is legal as long as the picture is taken after the hunt, everyone is there and knows how many they killed and which ones are theirs.
You travel to the Panhandle to hunt ducks for a weekend. Do you have to leave a wing or the head on the birds to bring them home?
This is a yes and no answer. If you for some reason clean the birds in the field you do have to leave something to identify the species until you arrive at the outfitter’s lodge where they are packaged for travel. Once back at the lodge or motel you fall back on making sure each bag includes hunter information the same as you would for dove.
You are hunting with friends and one of them gets a call and has to leave the trip early for a job site. Can you transport his birds?
Yes you can take their birds home for them, but each package needs to be marked with his information and you need a Wildlife Resource Document. There is one available in TPWD’s Outdoor Annual and online, but in an emergency you can easily write your own. It should include the name, signature, address and hunting license number of the person who killed the birds, the name of the person receiving the birds, the number and species of birds, the date killed and the location including county and narrowed down to ranch, area or water body.