The overwhelming majority of deer hunting and management that happens in Texas takes place on private lands. Although ranches and farms across the state produce the bulk of deer year-in and year-out, there is another option out there when it comes to deer hunting in Texas: draw hunts on public land. Sure, 97 percent of Texas is privately owned, but much of the other 3 percent offers some really good hunting too. This is especially true of the state owned properties that are operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) as wildlife management areas. A wildlife management area (WMA) serves as a research and demonstration site for landowners and hunters that manage property in the same ecoregion of Texas.
Each of the 50 or so WMAs implement a variety of habitat management practices for both game and non-game species to show private landowners what they too can do on their own properties. The product of good habitat management is healthy wildlife populations and economical hunting opportunities for folks looking to bag white-tailed deer, turkey, dove and other species, including alligator. Hunters that enter the annual public draw hunts have a shot at hunting these properties. Of course, public hunting in Texas is not just limited to WMAs.
Other public lands found in the draw hunt lottery, which is administered by TPWD, includes state parks, state natural areas, state forest land, US Forest Service lands and property owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The application book for the 2013-14 hunting season was mailed out last week and is available online right now. My family, friends and I have entered these draw hunts for years even though we all have private lands or leases that we hunt. We enjoy the opportunity to meet up, camp and hunt different areas from time to time. And it’s real, open field deer hunting. Every hunt that we’ve gone on in the past 25 years has been great, memorable and we’ve almost always left with more in the coolers than we brought.
Texas Public Draw Hunt Applications – Do Not Mess Up!
TPWD: “A correctly completed application card must be received at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Austin Headquarters by 5:00 p.m. on the deadline day for the concerned hunt category in order to be entered in the drawing. Application deadlines may be found immediately below each Hunt Category title.
Only one application per person in a hunt category (example, Gun Deer Either Sex) will be allowed. In the event two or more applications are received for an individual within the same hunt category, all applicants on those application forms will be disqualified. It does not matter where your name appears on an application form, that is your application for that hunt category. Even if you apply for another area or on another persons application card for the SAME HUNT CATEGORY, EVERYONE on those cards WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.”
The term “public hunting” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. All hunters have heard about the pitfalls of hunting public lands, but TPWD’s special draw hunts really offer a quality, controlled hunting experience for folks looking for a place to hunt. The book containing hunt dates and applications can be found online at Applications for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands. This booklet contains all of the program rules and regulations, hunt categories and schedules, procedures for applying, hunt area descriptions and application cards. TPWD will even mail you a printed copy if you request one by calling 1-800-792-1112.