Lynn Burkhead — TPWD printed regs booklet falls victim to COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has evolved in recent weeks, it might not be accurate to say that everything in the world has changed.
But many portions of it have, some for good. And that includes the Texas outdoors scene, where hunters and anglers across the Lone Star State found out this week that one of the state’s longest running yearly outdoor staples has been swept to the curb by the ongoing pandemic winds.
Specifically, Texans will soon notice a big absence at their favorite outdoors store, a change brought about by the negative economic results of the ongoing worldwide pandemic, as well as recent content consumption trends.
That will happen later this summer when hunting and fishing licenses go on sale in mid-August. When outdoorsmen make such purchases, there will be no Texas Outdoor Annual Hunting, Fishing and Boating Regulations booklets to pick up and carry out of the store with you.
Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (www.tpwd.texas.gov) made that announcement a few days ago when the agency said it will now be going to an all-digital format for the upcoming hunting and fishing license season, which starts on Aug. 15, 2020 when next season’s licenses go on sale.
According to TPWD, thanks to the economic impacts of the coronavirus, the Outdoor Annual booklets will not be printed this year. Instead, they will now be available only online at OutdoorAnnual.com and through TPWD’s free Outdoor Annual mobile app.
“We are well aware that this change may be disappointing to some of our long-time outdoorsmen and women that have become accustomed to bringing the Outdoor Annual booklets on their hunting and fishing trips,” said Carter Smith, executive director for TPWD, in the news release. “Be assured, it is not going away and will still be accessible via the web and our special Outdoor Annual Mobile app.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure hunters, anglers and boaters are aware of this change and utilize the benefits of the digital Outdoor Annual during the upcoming seasons,” he added.
While this change is sudden, it isn’t entirely unexpected either. According to TPWD’s news release, Texas Monthly, the long-time publisher of the Texas Outdoor Annual, has made it possible for the agency to provide regulations booklets and a mobile app.
But in recent years, the agency says that “…an increasing number of hunters and anglers have turned to the website and mobile app to get the most up-to-date information about regulations, including any changes in chronic wasting disease zones.”
While economic realities and media trends are obviously forcing changes, do the numbers support the all-digital move by TPWD?
According to the agency, they do, since TPWD notes that last year alone, more than 2.8 million users visited the Outdoor Annual website to access current regulations. Agency officials in Austin also say that’s significantly more than the 2.3 million printed copies that were distributed during the same time.
One way or the other, because of the evolving health crisis situation, one of the pandemic’s victims is now a longtime staple of the Texas’ outdoors scene. But it’s also a result that has been slowly approaching for some time now.
“Texas Monthly has enjoyed a decades-long public-private partnership with TPWD which made it possible for the Texas Outdoor Annual print and digital versions to be produced using revenue from sponsors and advertisers,” said Scott Brown, president of Texas Monthly, in the TPWD news release.
Now that oncoming change is here to stay.
“2020 has presented our partnership and the world with a host of new challenges connected to COVID-19,” said Brown. “Our shared goal is that hunters, anglers and boaters will find the Outdoor Annual website and the significantly enhanced mobile app to be user-friendly ways to get the most up-to-date information and, on the mobile app, to access the regulations without needing internet connectivity.”
While those who still like to utilize printed products might chafe at this news, in the 24/7/365 digital world that has been evolving for more than two decades now, there are also some unique opportunities for Lone Star State outdoorsmen.
According to TPWD, the Outdoor Annual mobile app also provides interactive features not found in the printed copy, including the ability to view regulations offline and in remote locations, and to even be able to carry a digital copy of one’s hunting and fishing license.
TPWD also notes that additional app features include location-based functionality such as “Seasons and Regulations by Current Location,” “Where to Fish,” “Game and Fish Identification,” "Finding a Nearby License Retailer” among others. Push notifications can also provide an angler or hunter with useful information.
Should you want to, like carrying it around in a pack to read on a slow day, TPWD points out that hunters and anglers will still have the ability to print copies of relevant portions of the Outdoor Annual before they head out the door. Or you can simply read it on your Smartphone or tablet…if you have connectivity and don’t run out of battery power.
Finally, TPWD reports that currently, the Outdoor Annual website and mobile app are showing the 2019-2020 regulations now in effect through Aug. 31, 2020. But they also note that the mobile app, which is available for download at www.outdoorannual.com/app, will be automatically updated on Aug. 15.
As the countdown begins to Sept. 1st and the dove season opener that will usher in another fall of hunting action across the Lone Star State, TPWD says that you won’t need to wait any longer to begin getting ready for another autumn run in the great outdoors.
While the printed paper product is now gone, consumed finally by the passing of time and a pandemic that has changed the world, outdoorsmen are already looking forward with hope to next year and the hunting and fishing action that the 2020-21 season will bring.
In the meantime, you might rummage around in your hunting pack or angling gear bag to see if you can still find a copy of the 2019-20 regulations book.
Because if you do, you might want to hang onto it — it’s now a collector’s item.