A PLACE TO HUNT by John Jefferson
Every year, people ask how to find a good, cheap place to hunt. They usually want to hunt deer.
But “good, cheap places to hunt,” are almost non-existent. Start with newspaper classifieds and let others know what you want. Word of mouth often works. You usually get what you pay for in hunting.
After all, here in Texas, the hunting is generally some of the best and most expensive in America. Landowners have made improvements in habitat and accommodations to provide quality hunts and compete in a competitive business. Many manage the game — especially deer – by controlling population numbers, keeping sex ratios as close to 1:1 as possible and providing adequate supplemental feed and water. That all costs money and those costs run up the price.
Every time a hunter with more disposable income than hunting savvy pays an exorbitant fee for shooting a deer on a high-fenced ranch, that “recent sale” goes into an imaginary comparable sales column as similar ones do in the real estate trade. And that affects the price of all hunting.
So, yeah, good hunting in Texas costs money. Good food ain’t cheap and cheap food ain’t good. But there is some good hunting that is reasonably priced. It means taking a chance and playing a lottery — a lotto called the Texas Public Hunting Program.
It’s run by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and some winners in some categories are drawn by computer. Once drawn by hand, times have changed. But the system is run smoothly, and loyalty points have been created to reward people who have previously applied but not been drawn. Loyalty points are more accurately recorded, increasing the odds of getting drawn for a hunt based upon the number of times one has applied without being drawn.
And, 9,100 hunts are available including ones for most game species. White-tailed deer hunts are by far the most popular. Other species hunts include turkey, quail, dove, waterfowl, squirrel and predators.
The Annual Public Hunting Permit ($48) entitles you to myriad sites and species hunts. It’s not a drawn hunt but is a lottery of sorts since you don’t know how many other hunters will also be present. Hunter orange is required front, back and head. Check it out: https//tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/public/annual_public_hunting/need to know/.
Popular drawn hunts are held for hunts on select TPWD Wildlife Management Areas and State Parks. These are more expensive ($80-$130) but still reasonable compared to private land hunting. Odds are low, but success, if drawn, is high. A $3/hunter application fee starts the process. Deadlines for pronghorns, ‘gators, exotics and javelinas have passed. Others are looming: National refuges -September 1; whitetails and others- September 15. Google “tpwd drawn hunts”.
TPWD also offers drawings for “Big Time Texas Hunts”. These are High Quality hunts with meals, lodging and guides for deer, nilgai, a bighorn, birds or exotics. Chances are $10. Google “Big Time Texas Hunts”.