Time to Apply for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands

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For a quality, affordable hunting experience, few opportunities can beat the special drawings for hunts offered through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's public hunting program.

During the upcoming hunting seasons, more than 6,000 hunters will be selected through a random computer drawing allowing access to some of the state's high quality managed wildlife habitat.

This year, more than 70,000 applicants are anticipated, from which more than 6,000 hunters will be selected to participate in special big game hunts. Through an application process, hunters can select from among 16 different hunt categories and choose a preferred hunt date and location from 69 hunt areas stretching across the state. There's even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group- in some cases four hunters can apply together on one application.

Youth-only hunt categories are available to hunters who are between the ages of 8 and 16 at the time of application. All hunt positions are randomly selected in a computer drawing from all correctly completed entries received by the specified deadline.

Because the special drawing deer-hunt categories have become so popular, (more than 3,600 hunters applied for 47 positions on one of the preferred areas last year), TPWD has expanded its offering of deer hunting opportunities with a management deer hunt category. Some special buck harvest rules apply in this category, such as the requirement that bucks must have antlers that possess four or fewer points. However, not all opportunities are geared toward low-end restrictions. For example, included in this category are deer hunts on the Matador Wildlife Management Area that allow the harvest of bucks with six or more antler points.

There are also some unique guided hunt opportunities on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, including a 4-day hunt to coincide with the peak of the rut.

Also this year, applicants are reminded that the fee for adult applicants in the public hunt drawings has increased from $2 per person to $3 per person per application. According to public hunt coordinator Vickie Fite with TPWD, "We recently mailed out more than 40,000 application booklets and are starting to receive some applications that contain the old $2 fee. We're trying to contact them to give them a chance to remit the correct fees but if it gets within 10 days of the deadline, we may not be able to correct the error and their application will be disqualified. If by chance, you already sent in an application with the incorrect fee, don't submit another application or you will be in violation of the application rules and both applications will be disqualified. Contact us instead and we'll discuss options if there is time for your additional application fees to be received here at the headquarters prior to the deadline."

Fite also stressed that this year, the antler restrictions which are in effect on some of the drawn deer hunts will be strictly enforced. "If you violate the antler restrictions, you will be cited by a game warden, so we are encouraging hunters to carefully read the bag limits on their special drawn permits and adhere to them."

Application booklets were mailed recently to those who applied for the drawings for hunts by special permit last year. The booklets are also available in August at TPWD law enforcement offices. The information about drawings for hunts by special permit as well as printable application forms will also be available online at (www.tpwd.state.tx.us). Call toll free for more information at (800) 792-1112.

The application deadline for pronghorn antelope hunts on the Rita Blanca National Grasslands north of Dalhart is Aug. 14. Bowhunters have until Aug. 21 to apply for special drawn public archery hunts. Entries for the general (gun) season deer hunts must be completed by Sept. 10.

Last year TPWD received 75,482 entries for the 6,124 positions in special drawing hunt categories.

In addition to the special drawings and hunts by APH permit, hunters have several options available from TPWD's public hunting program, including applying for several types of high-end guided hunt packages through the Big Time Texas Hunts program.

The BTTH program offers some of the finest premier guided hunts in the state. Proceeds from BTTH, which offers $10 applications for special drawings for premier hunting trips, pay for additional public hunting opportunities and wildlife conservation work in Texas. Last year TPWD received 75,477 entries in the BTTH drawings.

This year's BTTH drawings offer the following hunt packages:

  • Texas Grand Slam: one winner of a once-in-a-lifetime package of four separate hunts for desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and mule deer. The winner may be accompanied by a non-hunting companion.
  • Texas Exotic Safari: two winners of hunts for a combination of exotic species on the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Each winner may bring a hunting partner who may take a management exotic.
  • Texas Whitetail Bonanza: 10 winners get guided white-tailed deer hunts of 3-5 days on private ranches. Each winner may be accompanied by a hunting partner, and both will be able to take a quality buck.
  • Texas Premium Buck Hunt: with one winner and a hunting partner each getting an opportunity to take a super quality buck during a 3-5 day white-tailed deer hunt on a premier hunting ranch in south Texas.
  • Texas Gator Hunt: one winner and one hunting partner will go on a 3-day and 2-night hunt for 10-foot-long-plus alligators and both will have the opportunity to take an alligator.
  • Texas Big Time Bird Hunt: one winner of a whirlwind series of four separate 2-day hunts for upland game birds. Winner will take three hunting partners on each of the hunts for quail, pheasant, and dove and one hunting partner on a spring turkey hunt.
  • Texas Waterfowl Adventure: one winner will take three hunting partners on each of four separate 2-day waterfowl hunts, including geese on the coastal prairie, geese and in the panhandle, ducks in east Texas, and ducks in the coastal marshes.

In its seventh year, the BTTH program has grown in popularity and generated substantial funding for the state's wildlife conservation programs. "Last year, the Big Time Texas Hunts put about $400,000 into providing additional public hunting opportunity and game conservation and research in Texas," said Herb Kothmann, TPWD public lands program director.

All Big Time Texas Hunts packages include food, lodging and a hunting guide. Some packages, such as the Texas Grand Slam and Texas Exotic Safari provide taxidermy of harvested game. Applications for the BTTH hunts are $10 each and are available wherever hunting licenses are sold or by phone with a major credit card at (800) 895-4248. Persons must be age 18 or older to enter and may apply as many times as they like. The deadline to apply in the BTTH drawings for 2003-04 is midnight (Saturday evening), Nov. 1.