No more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to enforcing the new rules that began last year for hunting deer. And what is Erath County Game Warden Tony Navarro's best advice to hunters?

“When in doubt, don't shoot, he said.

“Last year only warnings were issued, Navarro said. “This year in regard to antler restrictions, citations will be issued, restitution will be ordered, and the deer will be confiscated.

Shooting an illegal deer comes with a hefty price tag.

Navarro said a Boone and Crockett buck scoring 101 is valued at $881.50, and they go up in a hurry from there. A Boone and Crocket scoring 144 is valued at $3,194.50.

So the higher the Boone and Crocket score, the higher the restitution.

Erath County is a two buck county, but only one may have an inside spread of 13 inches or greater with the other being a spike.

Navarro said a legal buck is defined as having: a hardened antler protruding through the skin and; at least one unbranched antler; or an inside spread measurement between main beams of 13 inches or greater. Navarro said, “A legal point is defined as being one inch.

To determine if a buck has an inside spread measurement of at least 13 inches, Navarro said to measure the distance from ear-tip to ear-tip on a buck with ears in the alert position. (Diagram, page 2)

Navarro suggested that gun hunters invest in a good pair of binoculars or a good rifle scope to help in determining if a buck is legal.

Navarro said he encounters hunters every year that do not have hunter's education.

“Any hunter born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 must successfully complete a hunter education training course, Navarro said.

He said the course can be deferred for one year.

“The completion card must be in the hunter's possession so they can produce it on the spot, Navarro said. “Violating this law is a class C misdemeanor and the fine is $24 to $500, plus court costs.

Another violation that Navarro said he sees a lot of is “improper tagging.

“Hunters need to execute tags properly by cutting out the month and date and using the proper tag, Navarro said. “Each year I encounter wrong tags on animals. As an example, a mule deer tag on a white tail.

Poaching from public roads is another violation that is costly, Navarro said. If caught, the result is a class A misdemeanor resulting in a fine of $500 to $4,000.

And, taking a deer on someone else's land without permission results in an even steeper punishment. This violation is a state jail felony with a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and forfeiture of hunting gear, including firearms. A violator may not be able to obtain a hunting license for up to five years, he said.

Navarro said this year game warden cadets will be on hand as well as game wardens in neighboring counties to help patrol the area.

ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com or 254-965-3124, ext. 238.