Paying Your Dues: New hunting/fishing licenses go on sale Aug. 15

Texas dove hunters will need to be sure to have a new 2020-21 hunting license and a valid Texas Migratory Game Bird Stamp in hand when they head to the field next month. New licenses and public hunting permits go on sale August 15.

It’s early August and the clock is ticking down towards another Sept. 1 dove season opener. Dove season in most of Texas gets underway on a Tuesday this year. It’s not the best timing for working folks, so some may have to sit out opening day. Fields will probably be much busier the following weekend, when the majority of Texas’ 300,000 shotgunners get the chance to hunt in the North and Central zones. The season opens Sept. 14 in the South Zone.

Regardless of when opportunity knocks, be sure to tend to legal business before you go hunting or fishing next month. Sept. 1 marks the dawn of a new fiscal year for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It’s also the day when new licenses are required for the millions of sportsmen to hunt and fish across the state.

Most current recreational licenses and permits will expire at midnight on Aug. 31, 2020. If you plan to hunt and fish in Texas after that date you will need to buy a new license and the proper stamp endorsements to do so legally, unless limited exemption requirements are met or you have a “Year from Purchase” fishing license that hasn’t run out yet. Also, Lake Texoma fishing licenses purchased in 2020 are valid through Dec. 31.

In addition to a new license, dove hunters will need to purchase a Texas Migratory Game Bird Stamp endorsement before hunting. The stamp costs $7.

Those who plan to hunt teal during the 16-day early season, Sept. 12-27, also will need a Federal Duck Stamp, in addition to the state migratory game game bird endorsement. The $25 federal stamp is not required of hunters under 16.

Additionally, all migratory bird hunters must be Harvest Information Program (HIP) certified. At the time of purchase, license holders are asked to report how many migratory birds they shot the previous season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relies on the HIP data to manage migratory bird populations and set limits from one year to the next. HIP certification is federally mandated for hunting migratory birds in Texas. The letters “HIP” should appear on your license.

As always, new Texas hunting/fishing licenses and annual public hunting permits are set to go on sale on Aug. 15. There are several ways to buy.

The most traditional way is to pay a visit to one of nearly 1,800 license vendors statewide. License vendors run the gamut of large sporting goods outlets like Bass Pro Shops or Academy to rural convenience stores and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department field offices. It’s a good opportunity to shop for shotshells or other goodies you might need in the field.

Licenses also can be purchased via TPWD’s website, tpwd.texas.gov/business/licenses/online_sales/, or by phone (800) 895-4248, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m to 5 p.m, using an approved credit card.

In 2019, TPWD sold about 3.1 million recreational licenses, stamp endorsements, tags and permits that generated nearly $103.2 million in revenue used for stocking fish, wildlife management, habitat restoration, funding of law enforcement and other operating expenses.

Approximately 9.3 percent of those purchases were made online, according to Mike Hobson, TPWD license manager.

Buying online is a good way to avoid crowds, and you don’t have to wear a mask. It is legal to display an image of information from TPWD’s website or a photograph of a hunting, fishing, or combination license on a wireless device for the purpose of verification of possessing a valid license until the license arrives by mail.

The downsides to buying online is doesn’t offer much support to local retailers during these tough times, and there is an additional $5 administrative fee assessed for each transaction. Plus, hunters must wait until the license tags are physically in their possession before taking a deer or turkey, unless they are hunting on a property using managed lands deer permits or another special permit. The same applies to saltwater anglers wanting to tag a red drum over 28 inches. Licenses purchased online or by phone should arrive by mail within 7-10 days of purchase.

TPWD offers a wide range of affordable licenses and packages that allows sportsmen to tailor purchases to suit their specific needs. You can research all of the options in the digital version of the 2020-21 Outdoor Annual, tpwd.texas.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual/licenses/. The print edition of the popular booklet was discontinued this year to cut costs.

If you need help deciding which license to buy, ask someone you trust to know the ropes. The sales clerk behind the counter may not always offer the best advice.

If you hunt, but don’t fish, you can buy a hunting license for $25, plus any necessary stamp endorsements for the game you intend to hunt. There also are licenses strictly for freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, or all-water packages that cover both bases.

The best deal going for all-around sportsmen is the $68 Super Combo. It is TPWD’s most popular license with nearly 438,000 sold in 2019-20. The Super Combo package includes resident hunting and fishing licenses and all the state stamp endorsements required for fishing in fresh and saltwater, hunting with archery gear and hunting upland game birds and migratory birds. The Federal Duck Stamp required for waterfowl hunting is not included in the Super Combo package.

There are price breaks available on some hunting licenses. To wit:

Resident seniors 65 and older and resident/non-resident youths 16 and under can buy a hunting license for $7; youth only licenses require no state stamp endorsements.

TPWD also offers free Super Combo packages to qualifying disabled veterans and active military duty residents. Nearly 113,000 licenses were issued to disabled veterans and active military during the current fiscal year.

Texas residents 65 and older can buy a variety of hunting/fishing combo packages at discounted prices. Seniors born before January 1, 1931 are exempt from the fishing license requirement. TPWD sold more than 251,000 senior licenses this year.

Hobson says it won’t come as a surprise to see a spike in recreational licenses sales this fall as folks continue to seek respite in the outdoors from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

TPWD saw a significant surge in fishing license sales this spring, when many businesses shut down and shelter in place orders were in effect. Thousands flocked to the water with hook and line to practice their social distancing.

According to TPWD figures, 418,259 people bought a Texas fishing license between March 11 and May 20 of this year. During the same time period in 2019, there were were 336,019 fishing licenses sold. The figures represent an increase of 82,240 licenses sold over the three-month period.

Matt Williams is freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

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