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Public Hunting in Texas: Draw Hunts Going Online

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Texas is well-known for white-tailed deer hunting, but it’s also known as a state that is overwhelmingly privately owned. That means finding low cost and/or quality public hunting opportunities can be few a far between. However, with a little luck you could be hunting smack-dab in the middle of some well-managed lands. That’s because Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) offers some really good draw hunts on public hunting lands across the state.

We took advantage of these draw hunts growing up, specifically for deer, and it did allow us to see some beautiful parts of the state as well as meet some other awfully nice hunters. The TPWD draw hunt system is basically a lotto system with an entry fee that puts hunters in areas where animals need to be removed. It was an annual, late-summer ritual to sit down with their printed draw booklet and “map out” the areas where we would enter, hopefully hunt.

Texas Public Hunting

It was never a sure thing since the odds of getting drawn were low, but more years than not we were fortunate enough to get to go hunting somewhere. Most of the these public hunts take place at TPWD’s wildlife management areas, but they also hunt state parks and some state and national forest. Now the whole draw system is going online, so although it will make it easier for hunters to apply, it may very well increase the competition.

Source: Effective with this summer’s applications, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s popular Public Hunt Drawing System will be online-only. The Public Hunt Drawing System offers affordable hunting experiences in more than two dozen different hunt categories, including eight specifically for youth only. Applications will only be accepted online — no “Applications for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands” booklets or application forms will be printed and mailed out.

With the new paperless system, hunters will be able to browse the drawn hunt catalog by hunt category and location using interactive maps, as well as complete the application and pay online. Selected applicants will be notified by email and can accept permits and pay any fees online. Permits will be issued by email and can be printed at home or stored on a mobile device. Those applicants who are not selected may still be eligible through a secondary drawing if any permits are unclaimed by the payment deadline. There may still be opportunities for traditional standby hunts at some locations.

In addition to now being able to apply for multiple hunt areas within the same hunt category (i.e. apply for a Gun Deer — Either Sex hunt on more than one hunt area), the online system will give hunters more time to apply. Application deadlines start in August and wrap up in January. Applicants will have until midnight on the day of the deadline to apply.

Non-refundable application fees for drawn Special Permit hunts range between $3-10 for each adult applicant 17 years of age or older. Selected adult hunters pay an additional permit fee of $80 for regular hunts and $130 for extended hunts. There are no application fees or drawn hunt permit fees for youth age 8 to 16. There are no application fees for the e-postcard hunt or the U.S. Forest Service Antlerless Deer permits.

Applicants will also retain and continue to accrue Preference Points, now called Loyalty Points, as in the past. Points will stay with the category and be applied to each application equally.

The new online-only system will begin accepting electronic applications in July for 2014-15 Drawn Hunts, including Special Permit hunts, E-Postcard hunts, and US Forest Service Antlerless Deer Permits.

More information about the new online draw hunt system can be found on their web site.

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