The calendar just rolled over to summer. It is time to start thinking about the fall hunting seasons. For some, the seasons are already beginning with applications being filled out for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Public Hunt Draw Program.
Close to 7,800 hunting positions will be available for a variety of hunts statewide, with the first draw taking place Aug. 1.
“We will conduct drawn hunts at 31 wildlife management areas this season occupying approximately 416,281 acres,” Kelly Edmiston, TPWD public hunts coordinator. The department will also conduct hunts for population control at 48 state park units and controls doe permit issuance on national wildlife refuges and forests within the state as part of its public hunting program.
The public hunting draw program is centered around white-tailed deer with about 5,800 positions offered on state property. There are also 1,370 doe permits available of U.S. Forest Service Land and 2,547 on national wildlife refuges. The number of permits on forest service land is down considerably from last year in an effort to improve the buck-doe ratio. It is up on wildlife refuges because of the addition of the Trinity River refuge.
But the program, which carries over into spring, involves a lot more hunting opportunities.
“We pretty much run the gamut on species in our program, alligator, turkey, exotics like axis, aoudad, scimitar horned oryx, nilgai, sambar, as well as javelina, feral hog and multiple small game species through our e-postcard hunts,” Edmiston explained.
The most coveted draw hunt position is for one of the state’s limited desert bighorn permits. There are only about 1,500 sheep in the Trans Pecos decades after restocking efforts began. While there is some hunting on private lands, the department typically offers three hunts on state wildlife management areas through the public hunting program, the Big Time Texas hunt drawings and as a conservation fundraiser. A bighorn sheep hunt on private lands in Texas can cost hunters from about $45,000 to near six figures, making the cost of a draw hunt a lottery-type win.
Statistically, draw hunt program participants are middle-age men.
“In general our public draw hunter is male (90 percent), about 41 years old and lives in an urban area (75 percent) in Texas (92 percent). In 2018, 11,437 folks used the Public Hunt Draw System for the first time,” Edmiston said.
However, not all of the hunts are for adults. About 1,500 hunts are for youth.
And not all of the hunts are for gun hunters.
“Archery hunt categories will provide approximately 2,080 hunt positions this season. The other hunt categories are considered as general or gun. However, unless there is a stated means restriction, this does not preclude you from using archery equipment for these hunts,” Edmiston said.
After white-tailed deer, the most sought categories are exotics, mule deer and prong-horned antelope.
For those wanting to be picked there is something of an art to the process. Some of the hunts are much more popular and a lot harder to be chosen for. Others can go untaken.
“The Chaparral was the hunt area that received the most total applications in 2018 with 14,762 applications received for the 10 hunt categories they offered and most applications for a deer hunt with 4,912 for the general deer either-sex hunt. However Mason Mountain WMA, Powderhorn WMA, South Llano River SP and Rita Blanca National Grasslands’ pronghorn hunt all received more applications than the Chaparral’s gun deer hunt,” Edmiston explained.
The department’s Wildlife and State Parks divisions have teamed together for population control hunts since 1972. Once somewhat controversial to those not understanding the deer population problems within the parks, these hunts have been conducted with little issue in recent years and have been expanded to other species.
“We will also be conducting hunts on 48 units of the state park system. While managing deer numbers through controlled hunting is a very necessary habitat management tool, hunts on state parks are varied and include turkey, exotics, feral hog and game birds,” Edmiston said.
For more information or to apply for hunts go online to https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/.