TPWD Drawn Hunt Program Offers Quality Experiences at Affordable Prices

Everyone is looking for a bargain these days. Unfortunately, there are not many to find. People are paying more for everything from pork chops to Cheetos, and no one seems to have any idea when things might level off.

The good news is that inflation has not spread to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s public hunting program. The same goes for hunting and fishing licenses.

The last time Texans saw a license price increase was in fiscal year 2009-10. For example, the cost of a Super Combo license increased by four dollars ($64 to $68).

In 2004, the annual public hunting permit fee increased from $40 to $48, application fees for TPWD drawn hunts increased by one dollar, and drawn hunting permit fees increased by $5. Those prices haven’t changed since then, but the quantity and quality of hunts on the drawn hunts menu has increased significantly.

Hunters can search for and request hunts through the Drawn Hunts link on the TPWD website. You can request as many different hunts as you like, but you cannot request the same hunt in the same area more than once.

You will need a computer, Internet access, and an email address to apply. Applications by mail are not accepted.

There are hunts for a variety of game including whitetail deer, mule deer, alligator, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, exotics, pheasant, wild boar, turkey, dove, warthog, squirrel, quail and waterfowl. Hunts take place on state wildlife management areas, state parks, federal wildlife refuges, US Forest Service properties, and select private tracts located throughout the state. Some hunts allow the use of firearms, while others are designated “Archery Only”. There are also several hunts open to junior hunters only with a supervising adult.

Many hunts allow multiple people on the same app. If it is drawn, everyone in the group can go.

There are four hunting options to choose from: special permit hunts, e-postcard hunts, US Forest Service hornless permits, and national wildlife refuge hunts.

Most hunts cost between $3 and $10 to apply, but some are free. The selected candidates will be decided by a random computer draw. All drawings take place shortly after the application deadline.

Additional permit fees are charged to adult participants on most special permit hunts. Hunting fees range from $80 to $130, depending on the length of the hunt.

There are no fees for hunts on private land, guided packages, pronghorn hunts, or youth-only special permit hunts. E-postcard hunts or national forest antlerless permits are also free, but adults must have a valid $48 public hunting permit.

Greg Bludau of College Station is an avid hunter on public lands who has shot down some...
Greg Bludau of College Station is an avid hunter on public lands who has shot some notable big game over the years. Bludau, 35, captured these two remarkable white-tailed males last season, six days apart, while participating in hunts at two different TPWD wildlife management areas.(Greg Bludau)

Abundant permissions

About 10,000 permits are up for grabs in 62 different categories this year, according to TPWD Public Hunting Coordinator Kelly Edmiston. Edmiston says about 5,300 permits are for hunts in state-managed wildlife management areas, state parks, public hunting lands and private lands.

Another 3,100 permits are for hunts on select national wildlife refuges and 1,380 antlerless permits are designated for use on US Forest Service property. Nearly 1,500 permits are available in 14 Youth Only categories.

There is a wealth of information on the website that can be helpful in tailoring game selection according to the species you want to hunt, preferred hunting methods, the distance you want to travel, the number of hunters allowed per request, and the application deadlines.

Hunts are listed by species and type: special permit, e-postcard selection, national refuge, and US Forest Service hornless. Most list number of permits available, legal hunting methods, number of applicants from the previous season and success rates.

Some hunts generate more attention than others. Edmiston says exotic and pronghorn hunts are getting more game these days. He noted two exotic guided hunts (Scimitar-horned Oryx and Gemsbok) in the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the Rita Blanca Nationals Grasslands Pronghorn hunt, the Powderhorn WMA exotic hunt, and the Bighorn in West Texas as the most popular hunts on the show.

For years, the Chaparral WMA near Cotulla attracted more applications than any other location. “The ‘Chap” remains the first choice among whitetail trophy hunters. In 2020, there were nearly 5,800 requests for his Gun Deer hunt – Any Sex.

Edmiston added that several state parks will rejoin the hunt program this year, while the newly acquired Powderhorn State Park in Calhoun County will offer lottery hunts for the first time. TPWD will also begin handling archery positions drawn for the Muleshoe NWR this year.

Participation Peak

Edimston says TPWD’s public hunting program has seen an increase in participation since the pandemic hit.

In 2021, the agency processed nearly 250,000 lottery hunt requests. The increase generated more than $1.2 million in application fees alone, money that is earmarked for running the hunts and improving the program.

“The number of people looking for opportunities in the public hunting program has grown significantly in the last two years,” Edmiston said. “The number of unique customers submitting requests through our online drawing system has increased by nearly 30 percent.”

Edminston said the agency has also seen a 20 percent increase in annual sales of public hunting permits. The APHP provides holders access to nearly 1 million acres of public land to hunt white-tailed deer, wild boar, doves, quail, turkey, waterfowl, rabbits and squirrels in more than 180 hunting areas during legal hunting seasons. . Areas include wildlife management areas, state parks, and more than 100 pigeon and small game areas leased from private owners.

As of June 1, the department had issued more than 53,000 public hunting permits for the year generating $2.4 million in gross revenue.

According to TPWD small game surveys, about 28 percent of APHP holders make use of the department’s pigeon/small game leases. Edmiston says the program will add eight new pigeon/small game leases this fall. The new leases are located in Floyd, Bailey, Jim Wells, Milam and Bosque counties.

There aren’t many deals these days, but there are plenty of great deals available through TPWD’s public hunt program.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be contacted by email,