Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 3, 2013

MATT WILLIAMS: Public hunting program offers good shot for trophy game

The Athens Review

Athens — Each summer and fall, Texas Parks and Wildlife receives thousands of applications from wishful hunters hoping to get selected to participate in a wide variety of “draw hunts” included in the state's public hunting program.

Draw hunt veterans who are attentive to the annual deadline schedule may have already gotten their applications in, while others may be lagging behind.

If you plan to apply for a public hunt drawing this year, it would not be wise to dally much longer. Some of the deadlines are just days from closing. The rest will roll around before you know it.

The brisk interest in the state's draw hunt program can be attributed to lots factors. For starters, the hunts in question are low cost and, in some cases, very high quality with a good shot at taking a trophy animal by rifle, muzzleloader, bow or crossbow.

There are hunts available for whitetail deer, mule deer, feral hogs, turkey, javelina, pronghorn antelope and numerous exotics that are carried out on select state wildlife management areas, state parks and even on a few private ranches.

While the number of permits allotted for each hunt can change from one year to the next, there are never so many permits issued that overcrowding becomes an problem.

“Hunter safety is always the first concern with our draw hunts,” said Kristin Rathburn, TPWD public hunting program specialist. “The area manager recommends the number of hunters that can safely hunt on the space that is available. Resources issues are second. If we can't fit 20 people on an area at one time then we'll do two hunts limited to 10 hunters.”

All of the available hunts are listed by category in the 2013-14 Public Hunting Lands booklet that is now available at TPWD regional offices statewide. It also can be viewed on the Internet at

I received my Public Lands Hunting booklet by mail a couple of weeks ago. As always, it is loaded with some great hunting opportunities and plenty of information.

The department this year will draw for around 5,000 spots in 28 special permit hunt categories including eight “Youth Only” categories.

The booklet has maps and descriptions of each hunting area. Plus, it  lists information for each hunt from the previous year, including the number of applications received for the available permits and hunter success rates. Additionally, it lists all pertinent fees including application fees and hunt fees. A non-refundable application fee must be received with each application.

Each drawn hunter will be assessed a fee of $80-130, depending on the the type of hunt. Successful alligator hunters who choose to have their 'gator tagged for commercial sale will be required to pay an additional tagging fee of $126. There are no permit fees for any of the youth only hunts.

The Public Hunting Lands booklet contains 10 pages of applications along with detailed instructions on how to fill them out. It would be wise to read the instructions and to follow them to give yourself the best opportunity of getting drawn for the hunts you apply for.

One of the most common errors applicants make is submitting multiple applications for the same hunt or for multiple hunts under the same category in hopes of increasing their chances of getting drawn. This never turns out good.

All applications undergo computer screening. If the same name shows up on more than one application in the same hunt category,  every name listed on the application is automatically disqualified from the drawing without any notification.

As earlier mentioned, application deadlines for some of the public draw hunts are closing in. Here is listing of upcoming deadlines by hunt category:

Special Permit Hunt Categories

• Alligator: August 1

• Management Alligator: August 1

• Archery Deer: August 8

• Crossbow Deer: August 8

• Archery Mule Deer: August 8

• Archery Exotic: August 8

• Gun Pronghorn: August 8

• Pronghorn, Private Lands: August 8

• Whitetail Deer, Private Lands: August 8

• Antlersless/Spike, Private Lands: August 8

• Gun Deer/Either Sex: Sept. 11

• Gun Deer/Antlerless or Spike: Sept. 11

• Gun Deer/Management: Sept. 11

• Gun Mule Deer: Sept. 11

• Exotic Only: Sept. 11

• Javelina: Sept. 11

• Guide Gemsbok Package: Oct. 10

• Guided Bighorn Sheep Package: Oct. 10

• Guided Scimitar-Horned Oryx Package: Oct. 10

• Feral Hog: Oct. 10

• Spring Turkey: Oct. 10

Youth Only Hunt Categories

• Youth Only Alligator: August 1

• Youth Only Gun Deer/Either Sex: Sept. 11

• Youth Only Gun Deer/Antlerless or Spike: Sept. 11

• Youth Only Gun Deer/Management: Sept. 11

• Youth Only Exotic: Sept. 11

• Youth Only Javelina: Oct. 10

• Youth Only Feral Hog: Oct. 10

• Youth Only Spring Turkey: Oct. 10