Deals that sound too sweet to be true usually are.
Not so with Texas Parks and Wildlife's Big Time Texas Hunts campaign.
Here’s the deal.
Big Time Texas Hunts is TPWD's rendition of the Texas Lottery. Rather than buying tickets for a popular scratch-off game like Texas Road Trip, Texas hunters are given the opportunity to buy inexpensive chances to win a real road trip to a top-notch hunting destination.
Winners are chosen by random computer drawings. Those selected are awarded premium hunting trips to some of the best private ranches and wildlife management areas in the state.
The BTTH program has 10 categories including a total of 14 different hunts. There are hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, desert big horn sheep, turkey, waterfowl, dove, exotics, alligator, turkey, pronghorn antelope, pheasant and quail.
Each hunt is guided by professionals. The package hunts also include lodging, food and on-site transportation. In some cases, winners are allowed to bring companions along.
Entering the BTTH sweepstakes is as easy as clicking a button. Chances can be purchased wherever Texas hunting/fishing licenses are sold, by phone, mail or over the Internet.
The cost per entry depends on the method of purchase. In-store, mail and phone entries cost $10. There is a $5 administrative fee for phone-in entries. Online entries are $9 with a $5 administrative fee.
There is no limit on how many chances you can buy. A hunting license is not needed to enter but is required to participate in the hunts. All entrants must be at least 17 years old.
The 2019 season is the 23-year anniversary for the BTTH program, which has proven to be one of best money makers ever introduced by TPWD.
The program has generated more than $15.2 million for the state agency since its inception in 1996. TPWD uses the money to bolster public hunting opportunities and to ramp up wildlife conservation projects all across the state.
Among other projects, BTTH funds have played a key role in the reestablishment of desert bighorn sheep populations in three West Texas mountain ranges.
Participation in the program varies from one year to the next. Last year, there were 94,705 chances sold that generated $871,644 in gross revenue, according to Kelly Edmiston, TPWD public hunting coordinator.
Some hunt categories always pique more interest than others. The Texas Grand Slam hunting package has a rich history as the program’s hottest seller.
The package includes four separate hunting trips for desert bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Edmiston said more than 27,000 Grand Slam entries were sold last year.
“It is a special hunt package,” he said.
What makes the Grand Slam package really special is the desert bighorn sheep hunt. Only a handful of tags for the regal animals are awarded each year. The permits routinely bring upwards of $100,000 in live auctions.
The BTTH program has continued to grow over the years with new categories or twists added regularly. There were no new hunt categories added to the mix for 2019-20, but this year’s winner of the Exotic Safari hunting package will take home a bonus prize including a Ruger American Rifle 300 Win Mag strapped with Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 scope.
Edmiston said $900 rifle/scope were donated by McBride’s Guns of Austin. “How’s that for a deal!” he said.
Entries the BTTH package went on sale earlier this summer and will continue to be accepted through Oct. 15, 2019. Winners will be notified within two weeks following the entry deadline. Each winner has five business days to claim their package.
Here’s a synopsis of this year’s BTTH packages:
* Texas Grand Slam: One winner of four separate hunts for big game, with non-hunting companion.
* Texas Nilgai Antelope Safari: One winner of a hunt, with one hunting guest.
* Texas Exotic Safari: One winner of a hunt for exotics, with one hunting guest.
* Texas Whitetail Bonanza: Five winners of a hunt for buck white-tailed deer, with each winner permitted to bring one hunting guest.
* Texas Waterfowl Adventure: One winner of two separate hunts for waterfowl, with up to three hunting guests on each hunt.
* Texas Big Time Bird Hunt: One winner of three separate hunts for game birds, with three hunting guests on the dove and quail hunts, and one hunting guest on the spring turkey hunt.
* Texas Premium Buck Hunt: One winner of a hunt for buck white-tailed deer, with one hunting guest.
* Texas Gator Hunt: One winner of a hunt for an alligator, with one hunting guest.
* Texas Wild Hog Adventure: One winner of a hunt for feral hog, with up to three hunting guests.
* Ultimate Mule Deer Hunt: One winner of a hunt for buck mule deer with one hunting guest.
Three Ways to Enter BTTH
* License Vendor: Available wherever fishing/hunting licenses are sold, 1,700 vendors statewide.
* Phone: Call toll-free 1-800-895-4248. Pay with MasterCard, Visa, or Discover. Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Mail: Download entry form from the TPWD website. Mail check or money order to:
BIG TIME TEXAS HUNTS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P.O. Box 17427
Austin, Texas 78760-9946
Trinity River alligator gar permit applications now being accepted
Beginning Aug. 15, rod and reel anglers and bow fishermen can apply for a limited number permits available to harvest trophy class alligator gar from the Trinity River under new regulations adopted last spring by the TPW Commission.
Applications for 150 permits will be accepted through September, according to Ken Kurzawski, manager of regulations and information with TPWD’s inland fisheries division.
Each permit allows for the harvest of one alligator gar longer than 48 inches using rod and reel or bow and arrow. All harvests must be reported within 24 hours using the My Texas Hunt Harvest app on a mobile device or the department website.
There is no fee for the permits. Applications may be submitted through the TPWD website.
Winners of permits will be selected by random computer drawing and notified by mid-October. The permits are not transferable and will be valid through Aug. 31, 2020, Kurzawski said.
The limited permits are part of a series of new alligator gar regulations that will go into effect Sept. 1. Other new gar regs include:
* Prohibit the harvest of alligator gar longer than 48 inches on the stretch of Trinity River between Interstate 30 in Dallas and Interstate 10 without a permit. The new rule does not impact rod and reel catch and release fishing of large gar year-round on the Trinity River.
* Persons who take an alligator gar from Texas' public waters are required to report the harvest to the department within 24 hours of take. Falcon Lake anglers are exempt from mandatory reporting.
Once plentiful across the South, native alligator gar populations in some states have undergone a rapid decline or been wiped out over the years due to heavy fishing pressure from commercial operations or careless anglers who consider it a "rough" fish with no sporting value.
Texas is believed to be one of nation's last strongholds for the prehistoric-looking fish with dagger-like teeth. The fish can be found in rivers and reservoirs all over the state, but the Trinity is regarded as one the best spots to catch big ones. Adult alligator gar fish have been known to grow beyond 8 feet and to more than 300 pounds.
Current law limits anglers to one alligator gar, per day, on all Texas waters with the exception of Lake Falcon, where anglers are allowed five per day.
The restrictive limit was put in place statewide in 2009 to protect the fish from the possibility of overharvest that scientists feared could happen under a historic no-limit regulation that afforded them no protection at all.
Adding to the concerns are the facts the fish may not reach sexual maturity for 10 years and they require specific spawning conditions that don't exist every year.
TPWD adopted the new regulations on the Trinity despite having no solid research data to suggest the river’s existing alligator gar population is in trouble or that a more restrictive regulation is necessary to sustain it.
More deadlines approaching for drawn hunts
Several application deadlines are coming up in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s drawn hunts public hunting program. Deadlines fall on the 1st and 15th of each month through October.
The department has 9,177 hunting permits available this year. There 5,260 permits for use on state owned/managed properties, 1,370 USFS antlerless permits and 2,547 permits designated for national wildlife refuge hunts.
Application fees for most of the multi-day hunts range from $3-$10. Successful applicants are usually required to pay a hunt fee of $80-$130, but some hunts, including Youth-Only hunts, require no application fees or hunt fees.
August 15 is the deadline for the archery deer, archery mule deer, exotics and javelina categories. Sept. 1 is the deadline for E-Postcard archery deer, national refuge archery deer, national refuge upland game, private lands antlerless/spike, private lands either sex and youth only gun deer either sex.
For a full list of other deadlines through Oct. 15, check out tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing/deadlines.
FLW Tour 2020 opener set for ‘Rayburn
Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) recently announced that the 2020 FLW Tour opener will be held Jan. 23-26 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir east of Lufkin. The event will headquarter out of Umphrey Family Pavilion in Brookeland.
The FLW Tour has visited ‘Rayburn four previous times, including the 2019 season opener held there last January. Kentucky’s Terry Bolton won it with a four-day total of 91 pounds, 3 ounces on 20 bass. He pocketed $125,000.