-By Everett Headley
Texas for a public land hunter is not on many hunters' radars. The state is nearly all private land and hunting opportunities usually require access via a fee. However, hunters willing to invest just a few minutes of digital sleuthing can find unique, once-in-a-lifetime hunts for less than the cost of a box of ammunition. These Texas drawn hunts are managed (including on private land) for quality and include virtually every species found in Texas, as well as some exotics.
How to Apply for Texas Drawn Hunts
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department publishes a catalog of the available draw hunts on July 1 for that year. The deadline to apply for hunts varies. Since I apply every year and already know for which hunts, I submit an application for all, but a handful when they open. The remaining applications are later in the year and I make sure to add a reminder to my calendar so I don’t forget. Staying organized when managing applications is the only way to avoid missing a draw, so I use a spreadsheet and record the details of each lottery application.
Applying is very easy, however it can only be completed online. Some applications are free (requiring a license purchase if successful) and the most expensive are $10. You could easily apply for a couple dozen hunts and still come in under $100. The low cost of entry means that there are a lot of other applicants which decreases odds of being drawn. However, success rates on hunts are good to excellent with just a few outliers. Applications are available on the TWPD website here.
Draws are conducted the following day of a deadline, eliminating most of the wait, but you will need to check multiple times if the deadlines are different for each draw. Logging in is better than waiting on an email confirming your success which could get lost in spam.
How Does the Point System Work?
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The Public Hunt Drawing System is straightforward. Special Permit Hunts operate on a loyalty points system (otherwise known as a bonus point). After an unsuccessful application, one point accrues for the category, not the specific hunt that was selected. For example, if you applied for all five alligator hunts and were unsuccessful, you would be granted one point for the “alligator” category.
At last count there were 34 categories, excluding youth and dove hunts, where points could be collected. This means even if you haven never applied before, you still have the chance to draw on your first attempt. E-Postcard Selection Hunts do not have loyalty points. If you apply as a group, the points are averaged based on what each individual carries. These points are then cubed for the draw and, if successful, reset to zero.
Selecting a Hunt
For me, Texas is a longshot. It costs me almost nothing, but the experiences that can be had exist nowhere else. I also have a life goal of pursuing antelope in every state and for Texas that means adding my name to the lottery. My applications are limited to mainly exotics and pronghorn, with a few deer tossed in.
If you are new to applying in Texas, look at the entire catalog and see what piques your interest. A quick search will find other experiences hunters have shared for the same hunt. This will give you a good starting point to determine if a particular hunt is within your skill set. A few hunts have special requirements such as an aoudad hunt that requires you carry a GPS and have a buddy with you.
A Trove of Special Experiences
Texas offers diverse habitats and species that most hunters have only seen in zoos. Often called the “poor man’s sheep,” aoudad or barbary sheep is rich in its own right. With broadly curling horns and long chaps on the front of its body they make an incredible hunt. It will take excellent glassing skills and strong endurance to close the distance on these extremely wary animals. Gemsbok, Scimitar-horned Oryx, and Sambar Deer each have their own lottery. Outside of New Mexico and Africa, Texas is the only place you can hunt gemsbok. From the coast to the hill country and through the Trans-Pecos, you’ll find that Texas can be beautiful and deadly. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the the dangers before you leave your truck. And for any of our veteran readers, make sure you see what licenses you qualify for. Texas has been generous and did not leave out nonresidents.
About the Author: Everett Headley is an outdoor writer and educator. He was raised hunting and fishing in Montana. He lives in the Bitterroot with his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cane, and his peregrine falcon, Freyja. You can find more of his work on his professional page, on Instagram and his podcast Elevate the Hunt.
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