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October 2010 cover image On the Scent

Big Time Texas Hunts Lottery Offers Chance for Hunting Opportunities

Winning the Big Time Texas Hunts lottery is a dream come true for hunters.

By John Jefferson

Larry Holland dreamed about hunting wild sheep in wild country. But he worked in the warehouse of a grocery chain, and sheep hunting cost more than he made in two years’ time. Family needs took precedence.

Holland and his kids were in Walmart buying school supplies one October day in 1996 when they saw a poster for a new hunting lottery — the Texas Grand Slam – conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The winner would hunt all four Texas trophy big game species — white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. The tickets were only $10.

But regrettably, Holland had spent all his money on school supplies. He understood reality. And responsibility. He was about to walk away, but his kids implored: “Put it on your credit card, Daddy! We know you’ll win.” They were so insistent that he reconsidered. He called TWPD the next day and entered.

Larry Holland is a man of faith, but this was a stretch. The odds were long, but he thought it was worth a chance. He was already getting in shape — something that would help him endure the rigors of the Texas Grand Slam and its strenuous sheep hunt if he won. He had lost 50 pounds through a church program. It wasn’t long before he received a call from Herb Kothmann, head of the TPWD public hunting program, telling him he had won!

Coincidentally, the South Texas whitetail hunt included in the package was on the Faith Ranch.

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How it all started

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission had previously directed TPWD staff to explore expanding public hunting. It was already offered on all wildlife management areas (WMAs) and a number of state parks where it was biologically sound. But there just wasn’t any more public land available. Creative thinking was required.

A committee consisting of private lands and public hunting personnel from the wildlife division, the communications director, marketing coordinators and the executive director began work. Whitetails and mule deer could be hunted on WMAs, and the bighorn sheep herd being restored in the Trans-Pecos was expanding and doing well. Perhaps a lottery-type raffle offering hunts for those three species plus pronghorn antelope would be a start and provide seed money to expand public hunting. There were legal problems with TPWD conducting a lottery, and liability concerns as well. The idea even required legislation, but the obstacles were finally overcome.

The first Texas Grand Slam was a modest success, grossing around $60,000 in entry fees. The second year, sales increased to about $80,000. Marketing efforts intensified the third year, and sales jumped to $250,000. Six other hunts were subsequently added, rounding out the Big Time Texas Hunts and offering never-before-available hunting opportunities. Entering the raffle cost $10 per ticket, and unlimited tickets could be purchased.

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The Grand Slam

Larry Holland’s ticket enabled him to see and hunt the Trans-Pecos for the first time in his life and to take a trophy animal on each of the four hunts. This hunt includes meals, lodging, taxidermy and guide service and allows a nonhunting companion. Holland brought his wife, Diana, a professional photographer. His bighorn hunt on Elephant Mountain WMA yielded an aged ram that barely missed making the Boone and Crockett record book. Holland put the meat on the grill and served his hosts, a few biologists and game wardens, perhaps the only wild sheep they would ever eat.

The most recent winner, Ty Chumley, almost didn’t apply, either. His home in Nederland was destroyed by Hurricane Ike, and his guns were swept away in the storm. He and a friend saw the poster at an Academy store. Unlike Holland’s kids, the friend told him he’d never win it. He took the challenge and bought one ticket. And won! His wife accompanied him on the bighorn hunt, where they cooked shrimp and catfish for the staff. His appraisal: “Tell everybody to buy a ticket! It’s good for conservation.” It also renewed his long-neglected interest in hunting.

Premium Buck Hunt

Kelly Nunn grew up in South Texas but had never taken a large Brush Country buck. The first year he entered the raffle, he bought 100 tickets. In 2009, he bought only 10, but won the Premium Buck Hunt on the legendary Caiman Ranch. He was unloading his rifle to return to camp when a magnificent buck stepped out of the brush. One shot put it down. It scored 193 Boone and Crockett points and should make a handsome mount with its shed antlers from previous years that the ranch gave him. His hunting companion scored, too. Nunn raved about the accommodations and guide Bobby Wier’s gun safety practices.

Exotic Safari

Two winners are chosen to hunt exotic game on the picturesque Mason Mountain WMA in the Hill Country. Each may harvest two coveted species from among sable antelope, gemsbok oryx, scimitar-horned oryx and axis deer. Taxidermy is provided. Hunting is done African safari-style from vehicles. The winners may bring a companion, who may shoot a management exotic. Margot Davis was one of the first exotic safari winners and impressed the guides as she calmly dispatched a gemsbok and a scimitar-horned oryx. Her husband took an exotic doe.

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Don Duncan, the other winner that year, shot a fine gemsbok and a handsome sable antelope. Tommie Thompson and Ronnie Kimball, both professional guides on the Y.O. Ranch, volunteered their services and then entertained with their guitars after dinner. Accommodations were in the former owner’s house overlooking a pristine lake beside the red granite Mason Mountain. That itself would have been a prize.

Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Pumphrey, a Kentucky veterinarian, was selected in the lottery. He elected to bring his brother, who was injured in a ranching accident years before. Pumphrey chose the exotic hunt since it didn’t involve much walking and was easier for his brother. He even asked Vickie Fite, TPWD’s public hunt coordinator, if his brother could take one or both of his exotic trophies. The rules allow transfer of hunts between family members, so this was permitted. Dr. Pumphrey took a sable, hunting with assistant WMA manager Mark Mitchell. His brother shot a gemsbok and a management scimitar-horned oryx while guided by Pablo Gutierrez.

Whitetail Bonanza

Ten winners are chosen for high-quality deer hunts on ranches known to produce big bucks. The popular Gene Howe and Chaparral WMAs are among the venues. Guides, meals and lodging are included, and the winners may bring a hunting companion.

Big Time Bird Hunts

Four separate hunts for one winner make up this unique package: two days each of quail hunting, pheasant shooting, dove hunting and a guided turkey hunt. Three friends may join the winner on the first three hunts mentioned, and one companion may participate in the turkey hunt. Meals, lodging and guides are included. Dogs are provided for the quail and pheasant hunts.

Steven Bauer was the 2008 winner and took friends and his son on the four-person hunts. His teenage daughter Leah got in on the action, too. She had seen turkeys on their Hill Country ranch one day and asked if she could shoot one. Daddy said no. But when he was drawn for the hunts, he invited her to hunt turkeys to make up for it. Neither had hunted spring turkeys before. They hunted the Matador WMA, near Paducah. Area manager Chip Ruthven guided them and called a gobbler off the roost that Leah put on the ground at 6:45 a.m. At another location, Steven shot his bird by 8 a.m.

“I kept telling them it isn’t always that easy,” Ruthven said. They spent the rest of the time bass fishing, and Leah got to hold a Texas horned lizard. But no horny toads were injured in the telling of this story.

Waterfowl Adventure

What an adventure it was! This prize includes three hunts: one for geese on the coastal prairies, a guided duck hunt in the marshes and a wood duck and mallard hunt farther north. Donald Tousley from Wichita Falls was 72 when he won it. He and his friends headed to the coast, accompanied by a strong norther. They combined the goose hunt and coastal duck hunt into one four-day hunt. Bitter cold and ice on the pond kept the ducks swimming around in circles to keep warm. Not many were flying. Luckily, they shot a few.

“The guides went out of their way to make us feel good,” Tousley says. “We had a wonderful time, and the food was terrific!” On the inland hunt, the area was flooded — fine for ducks, but not so great for hunters. Tousley took a nosedive into the mud. He has bought seven tickets every year “to support Parks and Wildlife,” he says.

Tousley will continue buying tickets. “But not for duck hunting or alligators; don’t need to be splashing around in the mud,” he says.

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Gator Hunt

The winner and a guest hunt alligators on the J.D. Murphree WMA, near Port Arthur. Each may take an alligator. All equipment is furnished along with guides, meals, lodging and hide removal. An airboat ride to see the gators is included, and believe me, you’ll see alligators!

Mark Garrison was at home when the phone rang. Without answering, he listened to the message. He told his wife it was someone trying to interest him in an alligator hunt. Then, for the first time, she told him she had entered him in a raffle for an alligator hunt.

“She’s a hunter and not intimidated by alligators,” he says.

They each got a gator the first morning, and spent the next two days hunting teal, limiting each day. Jim Sutherlin, amiable WMA manager, treated them to a nearby Coastal Conservation Association banquet and a dinner at a Cajun restaurant. Alligator biologist Amos Cooper gave them an airboat ride they’ll never forget. This was the first time either of them had entered the Big Time Texas Hunts. Garrison says it won’t be the last.

Wildlife conservation and public hunting

Hunters bought 72,688 Big Time Texas Hunts entries in 2009. This generated about $704,507 in gross revenue to support wildlife research, habitat management and public hunting. Plus, it’s made a lot of hunters extremely happy.

Hunters laud the opportunities that hunting provides for family time. Hunting is traditional. It’s fathers passing it to sons and daughters. It’s sitting around the hunting camp fireplace together. It’s also Leah Bauer posting her turkey hunt pictures on Facebook for friends to see.

Sure, the odds are imposing. But then again, you might get lucky and win the hunt of a lifetime. Somebody is going to hunt a bighorn ram that most couldn’t afford without winning that other state lottery. Larry Holland spent his last dollars on school supplies before his kids talked him into buying a ticket on credit. The odds were against Ty Chumley, who didn’t even have a rifle, with his one ticket last year. But look what happened. And it could happen to you this year.

But only if you enter.