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Ray Sasser / Special Contributor

Ray Sasser: Javelina added to Texas Big Game Awards season

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

The 2017-2018 Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA) officially started with pronghorn season in September. Now it's archery season for white-tailed deer and mule deer. No doubt, some animals have already been taken that qualify for the program.

TBGA is a cooperative program between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) that recognizes outstanding big-game animals, the hunters who took them and the landowners whose habitat management produced them.

Since 1971, 44,000 total entries have been submitted to TGBA, 25,000 of them scored. One of the best things TBGA does is recognize a first big-game animal taken by any hunter. These are mostly unscored entries taken by youth hunters, who receive a certificate suitable for framing.

Another of the good TBGA ideas is that white-tailed deer from different regions have different minimum scores required to make the awards program. Also, the program has highlighted Texas mule deer and pronghorns and further shined the spotlight on outstanding trophies taken from all of the eight wildlife regions recognized by TPWD.

Think of TBGA as the big-game version of what the Toyota Sharelunker program has been to Texas largemouth bass, revealing many of the top white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorns and, beginning this season, javelina taken during the current hunting season. The difference, of course, is there's no catch-and-release with TBGA entries.

There are some changes this season. No scored entries will be accepted from release sites for five years following the last release date. This includes properties with pen-raised, Trap/Transport/Transplant (TTT), and/or Deer Management Permit (DMP) deer released after March 1, 2017.

This keeps landowners from releasing an oversized brood buck that was raised in a pen onto a high-fenced ranch and hunting the deer just months, sometimes weeks, later, then entering the animal in the TBGA. The same five-year rule applies to deer moved from one ranch to another or to big bucks trapped and placed in a pen full of does.

"The use of intensive management practices like captive deer breeding and genetic enhancement through stocking have eroded the original intent of the TBGA program, which focuses on sound stewardship of the land as well as quality big-game animals benefiting from good land management," said David Brimager, TWA's director for TBGA.

"The use of breeding programs moves the focus away from long-term stewardship and rewards shortcuts, which is not the intent of this program."

Another change is that hunters will be limited to one Texas Slam award per harvest category (rifle and archery only) during their lifetime. Before this season, a Texas Slam has been a white-tailed deer, a mule deer and a pronghorn, taken in the same hunting season, that all score high enough to qualify for TBGA.

This season, javelina will be added to the Texas Slam requirement. It's time these little pig-like animals receive the respect they deserve as an interesting part of the south Texas and Trans-Pecos landscapes.

For too long, javelina have been treated as varmints that eat the corn scattered around a hunting blind to attract deer.

Javelina are not hard to hunt. They have notoriously poor eyesight. Since they have neither antlers nor horns, javelina will be scored by a combination of skull and canine teeth measurements.

That makes them harder to judge at a distance. Javelinas usually move in groups. If you study them long enough, you can pick out the biggest animal, which is generally the oldest male.

TBGA rules, minimum scores and a list of official scorers are available online at texasbiggameawards.org.

CALENDAR

Thursday, Oct. 12: Dallas Woods and Waters Foundation 38th Annual Dinner and Benefit Auction at Venue Forty50, 4050 Beltline Road, Addison. Tickets and details are online at dwwcc.org.

Thursday, Oct. 12-Sunday, Oct. 22: AKC Master National Hunt Test at The Big Woods, Tennessee Colony, Texas. About 850 qualified retrievers are expected to compete. This event is open to the viewing public. Details are online at bigwoods.net.

Thursday, Oct. 19: Allen Ducks Unlimited Banquet and Fundraiser, 6 p.m. at Two Rows on the Patio, 711 Central Expressway South, Allen. Tickets online at ducks.org/texas/events.

Friday, Oct. 20: Texas Shootout sporting clays tournament benefiting the Rob Harper Memorial Fund, Friends of Rob and FC Dallas Foundation. Details at friendsofrob.org. Register at fcdallasfoundation.org.

Thursday, Oct. 26: Dallas Ducks Unlimited Banquet and Fundraiser at Sixty Five Hundred, 6500 Cedar Springs Road. Tickets are available online at DallasDucks.org or call Art Brickey 214-673-9636.

Saturday, Oct. 28: Quail season begins.

Saturday, Oct. 28-Sunday Oct. 29: Youth-only white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkey season and youth-only duck season in South Zone.

Saturday, Nov. 4: White-tailed deer season begins.

Saturday, Nov. 4-Sunday, Nov. 5: Youth-only North Zone duck season.

Saturday, Nov. 11: First split of duck season begins in North Zone.

FEATURED PHOTO: Despite this state park sign from nearly 30 years ago, javelina are not hogs. The irascible little animals will be recognized this season for the Texas Big Game Awards. (Ray Sasser/DMN)