It would probably be a safe bet to say most Texas deer hunters don’t know the state has a muzzleloader season.
Why should they? It is held so late (Jan. 6-19) that most hunters’ freezers are full and their thoughts have turned to fishing by the time it opens.
Making the season even more obscure is the fact it is restricted to just 58 counties in the Post Oak, Pineywoods and Oak Prairies regions.
At a time when archery deer hunting is flourishing in Texas with an estimated 170,000 participants throughout the year, muzzleloader hunting languishes as little more than a pimple on the rump of all else deer hunting.
Here is a random thought. Let’s move the muzzleloader season forward to October and lump it in with archery hunting.
A show of hands please. How many bow hunters disagree? Looks like a bunch.
OK, here is a carrot. Why not drop the October surcharge to hunt with a bow? There are already gun hunters on 18 million acres around the state hunting during October for free. Why should bow hunters have to pay extra?
Still don’t like the idea because today’s muzzleloaders aren’t primitive weapons?
Ever look at a compound bow?
Granted most black powder rifles on the market today have little in common with the weapons of the 18th and 19th centuries. For the most part they look more like a modern-era, high-powered rifle, scope included.
If it wasn’t for the rod hanging below the barrel no one would notice it wasn’t a .270 or a .30-06.
Even the components aren’t primitive. Yes, the charge is still black powder, but that is the only comparison to what hunters were using just 20 years ago.
But the same thing goes with hunting bows. Today’s compound bows, arrows and points have very little in common with what Fred Bear was shooting in the 1940s.
It is like trying to compare a Bugatti Veyron to a Model T. They both have four tires, a motor and seats. Other than that, there isn’t much of one in the other.
So this rules out calling October a primitive weapons season. It doesn’t rule out calling it archery/black powder/ MLD season.
Unfortunately change comes slowly when it involves October hunting in Texas. It was easier to get silencers/suppressors legalized for hunting in the state than it has been to change the rules in October.
It wasn’t until 2009 that hunters were allowed to use crossbows during October despite the fact that crossbows were legal for some type of hunting in Texas since 1998 and there had been an archery season since 1975.
Other bow hunters were the culprit. They didn’t consider crossbows as an equal when it came to their definition of archery equipment. It took a nationwide industry push to overcome the prejudice.
And here comes the final big argument. Archery hunters pay $7 extra on their license to reserve October solely for archery season. Well, not really. They pay $7 because when they had the chance in 2003 to get rid of the stamp when others were being reorganized, a vocal mimority spoke up for everyone and said no, keep it intact.
Last year TPWD sold 36,017 archery stamps in addition to those include with the Super Combo license variations.
There is at least some tangible evidence for where the upland and migratory stamp funds go. Not so much for archery. Since there really is no specific restoration or research projects that can be tied to a need for an archery stamp it basically goes into the pot to pay for everything from toilet paper to salaries.
At least combining the black powder season with the archery season might save game wardens some gas by compacting the hunting year. The January season could become a late antlerless season for everyone.
The department estimates October hunters only kill about 21,000 deer statewide in October. That number includes those hunting with MLD permits. TPWD can’t say for sure, but does anyone want to guess which group probably takes the most?
And for those leases that don’t want guns going off in October should the government plan and shut it down until November.
So here is the plan. Drop the state archery stamp. Consolidate archery, black powder rifles and MLDs to October. Everyone else’s season starts in November.
Unless, that is, you want to talk about a deer season that has gotten way to long, and honestly lost a little of its excitement.
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.