Presenter: Steve Hall

Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Action
Hunter Education Deferral
April 2004

I. Executive Summary: The proposed rule at Exhibit A provides for a temporary “Hunter Education Deferral” for persons age 17 years of age and older who are required to complete a hunter education course to legally hunt in Texas. (Those under 17 years of age already have a similar deferral.)

The deferral, available through the point of sale hunting license system, grants adults an opportunity to give “hunting a try” prior to successful completion of a hunter education course. Adults trying to dismiss a citation for failure to complete hunter education or wanting to acquire a deferral for a second license year -- are not eligible for the deferral.

II. Discussion: Currently, many states and provinces are identifying specific hunting recruitment and retention strategies to ensure that hunting and wildlife conservation continue far into the future. In Texas, these strategies are included in “Preserving Texas’ Hunting Heritage – a Strategic Plan for Ensuring the Future of Hunting in Texas,” a plan reviewed and adopted by this commission. Hunter education staff has reviewed the plan to identify specific strategies the mandatory* hunter education program can address (*Section 62.014 Parks and Wildlife Code; Section 55, Texas Parks and Wildlife Regulations).

Further discussion of these strategies was made at the Governor’s Symposium on North America’s Hunting Heritage hosted by this department in December in Houston. Many of the discussions centered on the main barriers to hunting such as access to lands, costs, priorities of a person’s time and access to responsible mentors.

In some of the discussions, a few people perceived hunter education laws as barriers to hunting, but the data clearly indicate otherwise. Research conducted by Responsive Management (Fish and Wildlife Agencies) showed that approximately two percent of hunters are deterred by mandatory hunter education requirements – requirements that currently exist in all 50 states. On the other hand, two percent of new hunters are recruited because of hunter education.

The data also show that 93 percent of non-hunters and 89 percent of active hunters support hunter education training prior to accessing the privilege of hunting.

Hunter education works, and it has worked well in Texas. It reduces accidents, increases compliance to hunting laws, improves ethics and enhances the image of hunters, especially with the non-hunting public. It is a volunteer management system that provides tireless advocates for this agency and for the hunting heritage. It is the prime avenue for recruitment of young hunters and hunt masters for the Texas Youth Hunting Program.

Hunter education program staff must continue to be proactive in ensuring that hunter education programs are of high quality, fun, hands-on, and convenient, especially to a public that is bombarded by other ways to spend their time. Texas is fortunate. It has the most flexible mandatory hunter education law in the country and provides the most convenience in terms of alternate delivery methods. It is consistently among the top three states in terms of certifications and provides free, duplicate certificates upon request -- dating back to 1972. By law, the department schedules and offers courses in every county of the state at least once a year.

This rule gives Texas one more tool to attract persons into hunting and makes getting the training even more convenient. It also allows the department to identify persons that start hunting after the age of 17 or attract lapsed hunters back into hunting after they have attended college, started families or otherwise dropped out of hunting since their youth.

III. Recommendation: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to §55.607 and the repeal of §55.609, concerning Hunter Education, with changes to the proposed text as published in the March 5, 2004, issue of the Texas Register (29 TexReg 2234).

Attachments - 1

  1. Exhibit A - Temporary Hunter Education Deferral
  2. Exhibit B - Public Comments Received
  3. Exhibit C - Fiscal Note

Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Exhibit A

Chapter 55 – Texas Parks and Wildlife Regulations
Rule Changes

Hunter Education Regulations
Proposal Preamble

1. Introduction.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department proposes the repeal of §55.609 and an amendment to §55.607, concerning the department’s regulations governing mandatory hunter education. The amendment to §55.607, concerning Other Non-certified Persons, would create a one-time mechanism that would allow a person who otherwise would be required to have completed a mandatory hunter education course to go hunting under certain conditions during a specific license year after partially prepaying the fee to take the course. Persons seeking to defer course attendance would prepay $10 at the time of license purchase and pay $5 at the time of course enrollment. Although the fee will be codified in Chapter 53, this rulemaking includes a discussion of the fiscal impacts of the fee in order to present all relevant information for the purposes of public comment. The proposed amendment also stipulates that persons who have been convicted of or have received deferred adjudication for violation of the mandatory hunter education requirement are prohibited from applying for a deferral, which is necessary because the department does not intend to furnish a way for persons who have violated the mandatory hunter education requirement to avoid prosecution.

The repeal of §55.609, concerning Hunter Education Fees, is necessary because proposed rules affecting Chapter 53 (Finance) incorporate the provisions of the section as part of a restructuring of Chapter 53 so that all fees imposed by the department are located in a single chapter of the Texas Administrative Code.

Under the provisions of Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, §§62.014, and 31 TAC Chapter 55, Subchapter J, a person must complete a mandatory hunter education program by the time they are 17 years of age in order to hunt in this state. The statute and 31 TAC Chapter 55, Subchapter J, further provide that a person 16 years of age and younger who does not possess a certificate of hunter education may hunt if accompanied by a licensed hunter 17 years of age or older. Research indicates that approximately 2% of potential hunters are deterred by hunter education requirements from trying the hunting experience. The proposed amendment would allow a person 17 years of age or older who has not completed a hunter education program to defer completion of a hunter education program for up to one year, provided that when the person is hunting, he or she is accompanied by a person 17 years of age or older who has passed a hunter education course or is otherwise exempt (born prior to September 2, 1971) from the hunter education requirement. The intent of the department is to create a mechanism for adults who have not been exposed to hunting to explore the hunting experience with a licensed hunter who has completed the required hunter education course.

2. Fiscal Note.

Steve Hall, education director, has determined that for each of the first five years that the proposed rule is in effect, there will be revenue implications to the department, but not to any other units of state or local government. For each of the first five years the proposed rule is in effect the department is estimated to realize $3,000 in additional revenue. This estimate was derived based on the following: 600 hunters per year will opt to take advantage of the deferral. In the absence of the deferral, these hunters would have otherwise had to take the hunter education course at $10 each, generating $6,000 in revenue, $3,000 of which would be retained by the department, with the remainder retained by volunteer instructors. With the deferral, the department would generate an additional $6,000 in revenue, for a net increase to the department of $3,000. Of the 600 opting to use the deferral, 400 would later take the hunter education course for the $5 reduced rate. The revenue generated from these hunters ($2,000) would be retained by the volunteer instructors. The costs associated with implementing the deferred hunter education option primarily involve the programming costs of modifying the department’s electronic point-of-sale system. The current programming cost is estimated to be $98 per hour; however, the department is unable to estimate the exact amount of programming time needed to implement the changes, but anticipates that the cost of implementation will be not be exceed by the revenue generated as a result of the fee.

3. Public Benefit/Cost Note.

Mr. Hall also has determined that for each of the first five years the rule as proposed is in effect:

(A) The public benefit of the proposed rule will be to offer an opportunity for persons 17 years of age or older who would otherwise be required to possess evidence of completion of a hunter education course to explore the hunting experience, which might result in additional hunters and therefore additional revenue to the department to assist in the discharge of its statutory duties for the benefit of the people of the state.

(B) There is no economic cost to persons required to comply with the rule as proposed; however, there is a $15 fee for selecting a deferral of mandatory hunter education.

(C) The department has determined that the rule will not affect local economies; accordingly, no local employment impact statement has been prepared.

(D) The department has determined that Government Code, § 2001.0225 (Regulatory Analysis of Major Environmental Rules) does not apply to the proposed rule.

(E) The department has determined that the rule will not have an adverse economic effect on small or micro-businesses.

(F) The department has determined that Government Code, Chapter 2007 (Governmental Action Affecting Private Property Rights), does not apply to the proposed rule.

4. Request for Public Comment.

Comments on the proposed rule may be submitted to Terry Erwin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744; (512) 389-8140 or 1-800-792-1112, e-mail: terry.erwin@tpwd.state.tx.us.

5. Statutory Authority.

The repeal is proposed under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, §62.014, which authorizes the department to adopt rules necessary to implement and to charge a fee not to exceed $15 to defray administrative costs.

The proposed repeal affects Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 62.

§55.609. Hunter Education Fees.

This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

Issued in Austin, Texas, on

The rule is proposed under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, §62.014, which authorizes the department to adopt rules necessary to implement and to charge a fee not to exceed $15 to defray administrative costs.

The proposed rule affects Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 62.

§55.607. Other Non-certified Persons.

(a) Persons under 17 years of age may hunt without certification if accompanied by a person 17 years of age or older who is [and] licensed to hunt in Texas in accordance with the Parks and Wildlife Code and is in compliance with applicable hunter education requirements.

(b) A person 17 years of age or older who is required to complete hunter education may hunt without certification if that person is:

(1) in possession of a valid hunting license indicating that the person has selected the "Deferred Hunter Education Option" offered by the department; and

(2) is accompanied by a person 17 years of age or older who is licensed to hunt in Texas in accordance with the Parks and Wildlife Code and is in compliance with applicable hunter education requirements.

(c) For the purposes of this section, an uncertified person is considered as being accompanied if that person is within normal voice distance [of a person 17 years of age or older who is licensed to hunt in Texas in accordance with the Parks and Wildlife Code].

(d) A deferred hunter education option expires at the end of the license year for which it was purchased.

(e) No person may select the deferred hunter education option more than once.

(f) A person who has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for not having completed a mandatory hunter education course is prohibited from obtaining a deferred hunter education option.

This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

Issued in Austin, Texas, on


Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Exhibit B


Public Comments Received

Hunter Education Deferral Proposal
Public Comments Summary as of 03-15-2004

"As of March 15, 2004, Hunter Education Instructors and public in favor of proposal - 60; Hunter Education Instructors and public raising concerns against proposal - 3."
No comments received as a result of publication in Texas Register by this date.

Telephone Calls Received in Favor………………………………….. 6

Emails in Favor………………………………………………………. 4

Public Announcement (made in person @ Annual Conference)
in Favor……………………………………………………………….50

Total in Favor………………………………………………………. 60


Telephone Calls Received Opposed………………….....……….……. 1
Emails Opposed……………………………………………………… 1

Public Announcement (made in person @ Annual Conference) Opposed……………………………………………………………… 1

Total Opposed………………………………………………………... 3


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