By now, you’ve probably heard that on Wednesday, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission once again listened to the citizens and politicians of Grayson County.

And when they did, they decided to take off the table a controversial proposal from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to establish a deer gun season here next fall.

The decision to table the proposal was made during the Wednesday business session which several locals listened to via the agency’s audio stream. With a potential vote looming at yesterday’s TPW Commission meeting in Austin, the business session featured pointed comments from commissioners, confirmed widespread opposition to the deer season proposal and provided some deja vu as someone wondered aloud why this issue was even being considered again.

In effect. Because if you’ve lived here for a while, you probably know that we’ve been playing the same game here since the mid-1990s, when TPWD brought a similar proposal to town and drew a crowd to the courthouse building in Grayson County. in the square of downtown Sherman.

If I remember correctly, at that particular meeting in the mid-1990s, at the one in 1999 when the citizens of that county asked for the current archery-only season, and again in 2009 when the Department held an orientation meeting on the idea, the result was always the same. Lots of people show up (over 85 in the mid-1990s, over 100 in 1999, over 200 in 2009 and 280 by my count a few weeks ago) and the obvious conclusion is that the will of the people is strong opposition to the idea of ​​gun season by a wide margin.

And this time, they expressed that opposition in an even stronger way than ever before. In 2022, nearly 2,100 people signed a petition opposing this gun proposal in Grayson County. Keep in mind that most of these people aren’t bowhunters, just locals opposed to the idea.

Local politicians also stood in solidarity against the measure once again. State Rep. Reggie Smith promised a fight to the finish, State Senator Drew Springer indicated there was something special and unique here in Grayson County , and Grayson County Judge Bill Magers gave a fiery pep talk to TPWD wildlife officials a few weeks ago. , telling them firmly that this idea is so unpopular on the local front that the county judge has not heard from a single voter who favors it.

In 2022, there were resolutions against this proposal from the Commissioner’s Courts in Grayson (which did the same in late 2008 before the January 2009 public scoping meeting) and Collin counties; a statement against the proposal from the Collin County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Town of Sherman and the Town of Denison, which passed a unanimous City Council resolution against the measure earlier this week. Add to that statements of opposition from several other local municipal leaders – in an election year, no less – and the will of the people was once again clear.

What was somewhat different this time was the shadowy process by which Grayson County had come to this again. The two petitioners, who don’t live here and both had potential financial motivations that might have spurred them on, petitioned the TPWD last spring for a rule change and possible deer season. firearms in Grayson County. The Department listened and pushed the idea through the regulatory process, despite the obvious history lessons of the past.

And then there is the curious information and data that has been reported to the Commission and to the public in recent months, which has further nuanced it all.

For example, TPWD stated in its presentation to Grayson County residents on March 9, 2022 that “recent regulatory deer surveys estimate a population of 11,300 deer in Deer Management Unit (DMU) 21.” Incidentally, this is the DMU that Grayson County falls into after the unit was formed in 2010.

But before accepting that figure at face value, it’s worth asking why TPWD wildlife staff wrote in a September 1, 2020 performance report (BIG GAME RESEARCH AND SURVEYS) words that paint a very different picture: “The estimated 2019 population in DMU 21 North was 2,788 deer or 9.88 deer per 1,000 acres.

If there really are over 8,500 new deer in Grayson County from 2019 to 2021, that would be a miracle of modern wildlife management, wouldn’t it?

Maybe not. Because in a September 19, 2012 article about the opening of archery-only deer hunting in southern Collin, Dallas, and Rockwall counties, and in an article written by the late Ray Sasser, those words were printed in the Dallas Morning News:

“State wildlife officials say there are few deer in all three counties and these animals are restricted to pockets of habitat. They were asked to create an archery season and decided, why not?

“There’s no biological reason not to have an archery season,” said Alan Cain, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife’s whitetail deer program manager. “Bow hunting doesn’t have much of an impact on the deer population. As quickly as cities grow, deer habitat near Dallas will be gone in a few years anyway.

Sasser also wrote in the same story that, “Cain said the success of Grayson County’s archery-only season was a model for expansion into suburban areas.”

Incidentally, Sasser also wrote a fiery column for the Dallas Morning News in January 2009, blaming TPWD for wasting money and manpower to once again confirm that county residents from Grayson didn’t want this gun season proposal. He also lambasted the petition process where an out-of-county resident started all of this a decade ago (Question here – why do these proposals always seem to be started by someone who doesn’t live here?)

I was fortunate enough to know Mr. Sasser in a professional sense, meeting him occasionally at events that attracted outdoor writers. In fact, he was kind of a mentor to me as I tried to find my way in this industry and the curious craft that tries to help people be better hunters and anglers, learn about outdoor news and to act as a watchdog when necessary.

In light of that last statement, I wonder what Ray — who was a deer hunter with guns his whole life, by the way — would write this week about the final chapter of the Battle of the White Tail of the Grayson County?

There have been other sobering things about this latest attempt to bring a gun season to Grayson County. For example, the Commission recently learned that deer hunting was discontinued in Grayson County in 1961 for reasons the Department could not fully determine. Soon after, it was suggested that deer hunting here ceased in 1961 because the Texas legislature heard from landowners near Lake Texoma.

But retired Grayson County game warden Dale Moses reports, however, that the late Grayson County game warden, Sammy Brown, went to Grayson County Commissioner’s Court in 1961 and told them that they had to shut it down because there weren’t enough deer here to warrant a hunt. . And since it was the local state commissioner’s courts that had this regulatory power until it was given to the TPWD in the early 1980s, it seems very plausible.

Other curiosities can be gleaned from transcripts of Commission meetings over the past few months, including discussions of bowhunting licensing at Hagerman NWR (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines its own management efforts on federally owned lands of refuge, not the TPW Commission) as well as the schedule for bowhunting in Grayson County. On the latter topic, Orvie Cantrell, Jr., who opened his Big O’s archery store in Sherman in 1988, says local woods have opened up the entire county to archery-only deer hunting. bow in October in the mid-1980s. Because of this, he opened his archery shop on Texoma Parkway and has been in business ever since.

And in 1999, the county opened bow hunting deer hunting only in the general season after citizens of Grayson County petitioned the TPWD and asked for such regulations. There was a public hearing, most everyone who spoke wanted such a regulatory hunting package, and the TPW Commission listened.

Obviously there is a lot of angst and passion here from thousands of local residents because of something they love and are proud of, the only bowhunting heritage that exists here since Ronald Reagan was president.

And it apparently works too, producing an age-class structure that occasionally spits out a world-class buck despite the sparse habitat and minimal numbers of deer found in local woods.

Mr. Cain even made a statement to Ray Sasser in 2012 about a model, a model of Grayson County regulations just for archery, if you will. And it’s this pattern and the results over the years that make so many local residents care about it all so deeply and why so many have repeatedly told TPWD that they love things like they are now and want it to continue.

Fortunately, for the fourth time in a row, the TPW Commission heard this message loud and clear mid-week and responded in the right way.

This morning, thousands of Grayson County residents are smiling and whispering “thank you!” messages accordingly. Again, it’s nice to be heard in Austin.