Anticipating the Hunt
Need a place to hunt? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides a variety of public hunting opportunities.
Annual Public Hunting Permits
Beginning in 1987, the Annual Public Hunting Permit system for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has provided hunters access to almost 1.2 million acres of land for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor related activities on TPWD-owned or leased lands. Many areas are open year-round for authorized activities. These lands also include the popular dove and small game leases. Youth under 17 may access and use these lands free when accompanied by a permitted adult.
The $48 Annual Public Hunting Permits are available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Permit holders receive a Public Hunting Lands Map Booklet and supplementary booklet entitled Public Dove Hunting Areas and Other Small Game Leases, which lists available areas, facilities, rules and activity schedules.
Since 1954, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has conducted annual drawings to award special permits for high-quality, supervised hunts. Each year drawings are held for hunts on wildlife management areas, state parks and private lands leased by TPWD. These hunts include white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn, turkey, exotics, feral hogs and alligator. Application fees are $3 per adult for most drawn hunts, but a few guided and private lands hunts have a $10 application fee. Selected applicants are awarded a 1- to 4-day hunt and assessed a $75 to $125 special permit fee for each adult.
Approximately 600 of these permits are issued for youth-only hunts. Youth applicants must be 8 to 16 years of age and can apply and hunt free. Deadlines for application in the drawn hunts are staggered from early August (alligator) to September (deer) to December (spring turkey). A free copy of the Application for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands may be picked up at TPWD offices, by calling (800) 792-1112 (menu 5), or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Application information is also available on the TPWD Hunting Page at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/.
Big Time Texas Hunts
If you’ve ever watched one of those hunting shows on television and imagined yourself experiencing a guided hunt, then the Big Time Texas Hunts is your ticket. Premium hunt packages, top-notch professional guide service, food, lodging and on-site transportation are standard amenities for a Big Time Texas Hunt winner. Entries for these drawings are $10 each. TPWD offers seven hunt packages:
- Texas Grand Slam:
- One winner experiences a series of four separate hunts for desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope.
- Texas Exotic Safari:
- Two winners get to hunt their choice of an African plains antelope species.
- Texas Whitetail Bonanza:
- Ten winners receive a high-quality 3-to 5-day white-tailed deer hunt.
- Texas Premium Buck Hunt:
- One winner gets the chance to hunt trophy white-tailed deer.
- Texas Waterfowl Adventure:
- One winner receives a series of Panhandle and Coastal Prairie goose hunts and East Texas and Coastal duck hunts.
- Texas Big Time Bird Hunt:
- Quality quail, pheasant, dove and turkey hunts in some of the best places Texas has to offer.
- Texas Gator Hunt:
- A rare chance for a 3-day alligator hunt on a state wildlife management area.
Entries are $10 each, and you may purchase as many entries as you wish. Contest rules, regulations and entry forms are available on the TPWD Hunting page at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/btth. You can purchase your Big Time Texas Hunt entries whenever you pick up your new fishing or hunting license. Deadline to enter is midnight, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004.
For information on all the public hunting opportunities offered through the TPWD Public Hunting Program, visit our web site or call (800) 792-1112 (menu 5), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m.
By Kelly Edmiston
Learning in the Field
Taking a practical and innovative step to make hunting more accessible, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently approved a plan that allows the deferral of hunter education certification requirements for up to 1 year.
The new Hunter Education Deferral, which takes effect Sept. 1, allows a person 17 years of age or older who has not completed a hunter education program to defer completion until Aug. 31 of the year the deferral is purchased. The deferral costs $10 and may only be obtained only one time by the licensee. A person who has been convicted or has received deferred adjudication for violation of the mandatory hunter education requirement is prohibited from purchasing the deferral. Hunters who complete the course before the deferral’s expiration receive a $5 discount off the course fee of $10.
The hunter education effort began as a voluntary program in Texas in 1972 and as a mandatory program in 1988, requiring hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971, to pass the course. Under Texas legislation, those under 17 years of age can hunt if accompanied by a person who is 17 or over, is licensed to hunt in Texas, and who has passed the hunter education course or is exempt (born before Sept. 2, 1971), and is within normal voice control. Otherwise, they must take and pass the course if they wish to hunt alone.
The deferral now grants that same privilege to adult hunters for an extended period of time, primarily to accommodate those who: 1) are taking up the activity at a late age, 2) have been out of hunting for a while, 3) are home on leave, such as military personnel, 4) are home during the holidays, such as college students, or 5) are from out-of-state and do not have similar requirements in their jurisdiction or country. In every case, an adult hunter licensed in Texas who has completed hunter education or was born before Sept. 2, 1971, must accompany a hunter with a deferral and must be within normal voice control.
“Although we offer the course throughout the year, there are times during the holidays when only a select number of courses may be available and that’s typically the time of year when most people have an opportunity to go hunting,” says Steve Hall, TPWD hunter education coordinator. “This temporary deferral will give folks time to enroll at a later date and still take advantage of an opportunity to go hunting.”
The first mandatory hunter education requirement was passed in New York in 1949. Today, every state has such a requirement and accepts Texas certification reciprocally. Created as a safety effort, hunter education has reduced hunting accidents by more than 50 percent in most states, including Texas. In recent years, additional courses focus on hunter ethics and responsibility, the reduction of wounding losses and outdoor survival and preparedness. These hunter education programs are among the success stories of state fish and wildlife agencies and of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Assistance in Wildlife Restoration program, a “user pay - user benefits” system. Hunters pay for hunter education through state fees and federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition.
Texas certifies more than 33,000 hunters annually through more than 4,000 hunter education courses offered across the state, with at least one offered in each of the state’s 254 counties. The course consists of a minimum of 10 hours of classroom instruction and hands-on activities during a minimum period of 2 days. The classroom objectives can alternatively be taken through home study or online, followed by a one-day, hands-on outdoors session. Most courses are taught by volunteer instructors, trained and certified by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hunter education staff. To date, more than 650,000 people have been certified in Texas.
The hunter education course offers a tool for the parent or mentor to use to assist a person in his or her development and maturity as a hunter. It also provides the means to introduce responsible use of the outdoors, shooting sports, firearm safety, promote landowner relations, compliance with game laws and help reduce violations.
By Terry Erwin