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License time for hunters, anglers

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

New hunting and fishing licenses became available last Tuesday.

Most current licenses expire at midnight Thursday, Aug. 31.

An increasing number of Texas sportsmen and sportswomen are buying licenses online at tpwd.texas.gov. Online license sales are about 10 percent of all license sales, according to Mike Hobson, who oversees the licensing department for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Outdoors folks are traditionalists, and 90 percent still buy their licenses through one of nearly 1,800 license vendors scattered throughout Texas. Vendors run the gamut from big city superstores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's to dusty little West Texas hardware stores.

There's a comforting ritual about buying a new license, talking to the salesman about what the fish are biting or prospects for deer season. Maybe buy another case of shells, just in case it's windy on opening day and doves are hard to hit.

Just be certain you know what licenses you need. Do not rely on a sales clerk to provide guidance. The clerk won't be around when the game warden asks to see your license.

There are no changes in licenses from last year and that includes cost. The last price increase was in 2010. Anglers 16 and younger do not need a fishing license. All hunters, including youth hunters, must possess a hunting license with appropriate stamp endorsements if hunting upland birds, waterfowl or archery hunting during the special archery season.

If you have a 16-year-old hunting and fishing partner soon to turn 17, buy a youth hunting license ($7) while the kid is still 16. After turning 17, the sidekick will require at least a $25 resident hunting license. If he hunts waterfowl, turkeys, quail and hunts with a bow during early archery season, the cost rises significantly through stamp endorsements.

Deciding on the correct license can be a complicated process. That's one reason the super combo license package is so popular. TPWD sold 644,000 super combos for the 2016-17 season.

A super combo pretty much covers everything. It's the most popular license the agency sells, often touted as a bargain, though it's doubtful that many of the people who buy a super combo hunt during the archery season, hunt waterfowl and upland game, and fish in both freshwater and saltwater.

The super combo still costs $68. Senior citizens, 65 and older, pay $32. Seniors get a break on most license fees. TPWD sold more than 214,000 senior licenses for the current fiscal year.

There are also combo hunting and freshwater fishing licenses ($50), or combo hunting and saltwater fishing licenses ($55).

Interesting, at least to me, are sales of temporary fishing licenses, about 358,000, for the current sales year. Buyers are people who are not committed anglers but find themselves with a fishing opportunity, maybe on vacation or via invitation from a neighbor.

TPWD created the temporary license ($11 a day) in hopes of converting the buyers into committed license buyers. They even created a year-to-date fishing license that costs $47 for the all-water package. That's $7 more than a standard-issue all-water fishing license.

Hobson said total license sales through July were up about 2 percent from the same sales period last year. License sales pay about 27 percent of TPWD's annual budget. The remainder mostly comes from sales taxes on sporting goods and from federal matching funds grants.

When you buy a new license, request a Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual. It's the bible of hunting and fishing regulations, written in somewhat complicated legalese.

Study the fine print, particularly regarding counties where you hunt or lakes where you fish. If you have a question, call a game warden for the region where you hunt or fish. The office numbers are in the regulations booklet.

Calendar

Thursday, Aug. 31 -- Hunting and fishing licenses for 2016-17 expire.

Sept. 1 -- Dove season begins in north and central zones.

Sept. 2-3 -- Special white-winged dove season in the entire South Zone.

Sept. 9-10 -- Second weekend of special white-winged dove season in the entire south zone.

Sept. 9-24 -- Early teal duck season statewide.

Sept. 30 -- Archery season begins for deer and Rio Grande turkey.

Oct. 12 -- Dallas Woods and Waters Foundation 38th annual dinner and benefit auction at Venue Forty50, 3050 Beltline Road, Addison. Tickets and details at dwwcc.org.

RAY SASSER is a special contributor to the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have an area outdoors event or big-catch picture, email drcsports@dentonrc.com.

FEATURED PHOTO: Anglers and hunters need to make certain they are buying the correct license for the fish and game they intend to pursue. Most current licenses expire at midnight Aug. 31.