Texas is a state with a rich hunting tradition and a diverse wildlife population. Whether you’re looking for a new outdoor adventure, a quality source of fresh meat, or a way to contribute to wildlife conservation, hunting in Texas can offer you all that and more.
But where do you start? How do you find a place to hunt, what kind of license do you need, and what are the best practices for hunting ethically and safely? In this article, we’ll answer some of these questions and give you some tips on how to enjoy hunting in Texas.
Finding a Place to Hunt
One of the biggest challenges for hunters in Texas is finding a place to hunt. Most hunting in Texas is done on private land, primarily on large ranches that may be leased by outfitters or individuals, or hunted with the permission of the landowner1. Texans are avid and enthusiastic hunters, so finding access to private land can be difficult and expensive.
Fortunately, there are other options for hunters who don’t have access to private land. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) offers several public hunting programs that provide opportunities to hunt on over 1 million acres of publicly accessible land located throughout Texas2. These include:
- The Annual Public Hunting Permit (also known as walk-in), which provides nearly year-round hunting on nearly 180 hunting areas, including wildlife management areas, state parks and dove and small game areas leased from private landowners. The permit costs $48 and is valid from September 1 through August 31 of the following year.
- The Public Hunt Drawing System, which provides opportunities to apply for a wide variety of supervised, drawn hunts including special drawings for both adults and youth hunters. These hunts are conducted on TPWD managed lands as well as specially leased private properties. The application fees vary depending on the hunt category and the number of applicants.
- The Regular (Daily) Permit Hunts, which are available for certain small game and waterfowl hunts. These permits are issued at the hunt area on a first-come first-served basis and cost $20 per adult and $10 per youth.
To find out more about these public hunting programs, visit the TPWD website or download the free Outdoor Annual app for your smartphone.
Another option for finding a place to hunt is to join a hunting club or lease a hunting property with other hunters. This can be a great way to share costs, make friends, and learn from experienced hunters. However, you should always do your research before joining or leasing any hunting property. Make sure you understand the rules, regulations, fees, and expectations of the landowner and the other hunters. Also, check the quality and quantity of the game animals on the property and the availability of facilities and amenities.
Getting a Hunting License
All residents and visitors need a Texas hunting license to take part in hunting or trapping across the state3. The TPWD bases licenses, stamps, and permits on the type of game you’re hunting, your age, and where you live.
The most common license for residents is the Resident Hunting License ($25), which allows you to hunt any legal game or animal except deer. For deer hunting, you need either a Resident Combination Hunting/Fishing License ($40), which also allows you to fish in freshwater and saltwater, or a Resident Super Combo License ($68), which includes all state stamps (archery, upland game bird, migratory game bird, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing with red drum tag).
Non-residents can choose from several options depending on their length of stay and type of game. The most common license for non-residents is the Non-resident General Hunting License ($315), which allows you to hunt any legal game or animal except deer. For deer hunting, you need either a Non-resident Special Hunting License ($132), which also allows you to hunt turkey during spring season only, or a Non-resident 5-Day Special Hunting License ($48), which allows you to hunt any legal game or animal except deer for five consecutive days.
Following the Hunting Rules and Regulations
Texas has a complex and comprehensive set of hunting rules and regulations that are designed to protect the wildlife resources, ensure public safety, and promote ethical hunting practices. As a hunter, you are responsible for knowing and following these rules and regulations.
Some of the most important rules and regulations to remember are:
- You must have a valid hunting license, stamps, and permits for the game you’re hunting and the area you’re hunting in. You must also carry proof of hunter education certification or deferral (if applicable).
- You must follow the hunting season dates, bag limits, and legal means and methods for each game animal or bird. You can find this information in the Outdoor Annual booklet or app, or on the TPWD website.
- You must tag your harvested game animals with a tag from your license immediately upon harvest, and in a secure manner anywhere on the animal. You must also report your harvest online or by phone within 24 hours for certain game animals (such as deer and turkey) in certain counties.
- You must respect the property rights of landowners and obtain permission before hunting on private land. You must also follow any additional rules or restrictions imposed by the landowner or the hunt area manager.
- You must practice safe firearm handling and shooting at all times. You must also wear at least 400 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on your head and upper body when hunting on public land during firearm deer season or when hunting on U.S. Forest Service lands during any open firearm season.
These are just some of the basic rules and regulations that apply to hunting in Texas. For more details, please refer to the Outdoor Annual booklet or app, or visit the TPWD website.
Practicing Ethical Hunting
Ethical hunting is more than just following the rules and regulations. It is also about having a personal code of conduct that guides your actions and decisions in the field. Ethical hunting is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when doing the wrong thing is legal.
According to TPWD, a responsible Texas hunter is careful, courteous, considerate, and capable1. Some of the ethical responsibilities to consider are:
- To oneself: Take a hunter education course, never lose self-control, always follow the four C’s, know what to do in an emergency, get in shape before your hunt, establish good hunting ethics.
- To other hunters: Never be rude or hog shots, never drink alcohol or use drugs before or while hunting, always offer to share the work and any game meat taken.
- To non-hunters: Never display harvested game in or on vehicles when traveling, always be courteous and be aware of how your image might affect non-hunters.
- To landowners: Always secure permission, always take care of landowner’s property and equipment, always be considerate.
- To the resource: Always learn as much as possible about wildlife, always take care of private and public lands, always practice or work with conservation efforts, understand and obey the hunting and game laws, report hunting violators, shoot within effective range to ensure a swift, clean kill, clean and store harvested game to maximize the consumption and enjoyment of the meat and usable parts.
Ethical hunting is not only good for you as a hunter, but also for the wildlife you hunt, the land you hunt on, and the future of hunting in Texas.
Choosing Your Game Animal
Texas has a wide variety of game animals and birds that you can hunt depending on your preference, skill level, budget, and availability. Some of the most popular game animals in Texas are:
- White-tailed deer: The most abundant and sought-after big game animal in Texas. Found throughout the state in various habitats. Season runs from late September to early January depending on county. Bag limit varies by county. Requires a deer stamp ($7) in addition to a hunting license.
- Mule deer: A larger and less common deer species than white-tailed deer. Found mainly in West Texas in desert mountains and plains. Season runs from late November to early December depending on county. Bag limit is one buck per license year. Requires a deer stamp ($7) in addition to a hunting license.
- Pronghorn antelope: A fast and graceful animal with distinctive horns. Found mainly in West Texas in open grasslands and shrublands. Season runs from late September to early October depending on county. Bag limit is one buck per license year. Requires a pronghorn permit issued by TPWD through a public drawing system