Luck Of The Draw: Public Hunt Program Offers Hunting Options
TEXAS HUNTERS CAN FIND a number of hunting options in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s public draw hunt program. The booklets are out and draws will be conducted starting in August.
Right this minute, more than any other time of the year, it is hard to think hunting.
It is the heat of the summer. Last season has become a faded memory and the upcoming season is just too far in the distance.
OK. Break time is over. Time to start getting ready for the fall.
The first rule of order is to get a copy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's catalog for public hunting opportunities. It is the what's-what of public draw hunts across the state. The perfect source for hunters without a deer lease, wanting to see new country or hunt something different.
But wait, there is more.
The booklet also includes a list of hunts for rare and exotic animals, including a guided hunt for a desert bighorn sheep in the Trans Pecos region of the state. On the public market, a desert bighorn hunt can cost upwards of six figures. Through the state's public hunting program it will cost $10 and that includes food and lodging.
Last year 2,856 hunters applied for the single permit hunt that will be conducted on one of three state wildlife management areas, Black Gap, Elephant Mountain or Sierra Diablo.
The hunt, along with another that is being offered through the department's Big Time Hunts' Grand Slam raffle option, is being offered despite a slight downward trend in the population. Texas' bighorn sheep numbers have gone from an historic high of about 1,500 in the 1880s to believed extinction 70 years later. A restoration program throughout the region has been successful to the point that numbers climbed to more than 1,100 before slipping back to just over a thousand last fall. An annual survey for 2012 will be conducted in August.
The department is also offering a guided hunt for a scimitar-horned oryx hunt on its Mason Mountain Ranch.
Extinct in its native North Africa, the oryx exists in huntable numbers on game ranches across Texas. They existed on Mason Mountain when the department acquired the property in 1997. Federal rule changes have made hunting scimitar-horned oryx more difficult, but with the proper permit the department is still able to conduct a hunt.
Other exotic hunts are being conducted for gemsbok, aoudad, axis, and in some cases whatever species walks out.
Last year's drought had little impact on the program. TPWD is offering about 5,500 hunt positions on 43 state parks and 28 wildlife management areas.
"We have 28 hunt categories this season with drawn hunt opportunities that include alligator, white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, feral hog, javelina, turkeys and exotics," said Linda Campbell, private lands and public hunting program director.
The draw hunt program has been on a growth spurt.
"The number of applications we process has been increasing over the last 10 years. Last season we processed almost 46,000 applications. Each application averages almost two persons on a card," Campbell said.
There are certain wildlife management areas that draw an application crowd year after year. Those include the Chaparral in South Texas, the Kerr and East Texas' Gus Engeling. Those are typically difficult to get drawn for.
"Areas that are a further distance from populated areas often have fewer applicants in general, but all our areas can provide good hunting opportunity," Campbell said.
The application fee for most hunts is $3. The special hunts, bighorn sheep, oryx and gemsbok hunts and deer hunts on private ranches, carry an application fee of $10. Hunt costs range from $80 to $130.
There are also a number of youth-only hunts. There is no application or fee cost for those hunts.
While most hunts are open to gun or archery hunting, there are some that are restricted to archery only and a limited number that are limited to crossbows.
The draw hunt season begins with September alligator. Application deadline for those hunts is Aug. 2. Public draw hunt catalogs are available from state game warden offices, state parks and wildlife management areas that normally host hunts. The booklets can also be ordered by calling 800-792-1112.
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