Although Texas is dominated by private land there are still some readily-available and high quality Texas public hunting lands. In fact, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) makes over 1 million acres of public land accessible for a variety of hunting opportunities through two public hunting systems. One way to access state-owned hunting land is to purchase an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit. The APH Permit, currently $48, provides nearly year-round hunting on approximately 1.2 million acres of land and allows hunters to choose from multiple areas to hunt for a variety of game species. APH Permit holders select when and where they hunt and can access the properties as many times as they want. Hunters that purchase this permit will receive a public hunting lands map booklet with available hunt areas and hunt dates. Texas’ short-term dove hunting areas can be accessed through the APH Permit program.
The Public Hunt Drawing System provides opportunities for hunters to apply for a wide variety of supervised, drawn hunts including special drawings for both adults and youth hunters. These hunts take place on TPWD’s state parks and wildlife management areas where specific harvest goals are required. The hunt categories available through the drawing system are Alligator, Archery Deer, Archery Mule Deer, Crossbow Deer, Archery Exotic Only, Gun Pronghorn, Private Lands Pronghorn, Private Lands Buck, Private Lands Antlerless-Spike, Gun Deer Either Sex, Gun Deer Antlerless-Spike, Gun Deer Management Either Sex, Gun Mule Deer, Exotic Only, Javelina, Feral Hog, Spring Turkey, Youth Only Alligator, Youth Only Gun Deer, Youth Only Javelina, Youth Only Exotic, Youth Only Spring Turkey and several other hunt “packages” available through the drawing system.
The Texas public hunting lands drawing system offers special hunt package drawings for native animals as well as exotic and feral animals on TPWD managed lands as well as specially leased private properties. Of course, white-tailed deer hunting seems is the most competitive, so expect some competition when entering these hunt drawings. All of the drawing system hunts will be listed in TPWD’s “Special Drawing and Regular Permit Hunting Opportunities” booklet that comes out every year in late summer.
In addition to draw hunts, this public hunting lands booklet also contains areas that can be hunted through what they call regular permit hunts, and the hunts take place at many of the wildlife management areas. A regular permit is available for certain small game and waterfowl hunts. Regular permits are issued as the hunt area on a first-come, first-served basis and the hunting area has the right to limit the number of participating hunters, though this rarely seems to happen. A $20 fee is charged for each Regular Permit issued to an adult hunter per day. The fee is waived for minors age 17 and younger and for APH Permit holders. During regular permit hunts, all hunters must sign in at the wildlife management areas’ check station before entering the area.
Again, Texas is a state that is dominated by privately-owned lands, but the state does open up it’s wildlife management areas and state parks to provide public hunting lands. From my experience, the special drawing hunts are well organized and allow hunters to experience great hunting on well-managed areas. The APH Permit also allows hunters to access wildlife management areas and private lands that the state leases for short-term public hunting opportunities. The APH Permit is great for small game and dove hunting, but also has a large amount of acreage available to waterfowl and deer hunters. For more information, follow the category on Texas pubic hunting lands.