Deer season is in full swing, and we have been seeing a lot of interest in public land hunting this year. When the time changes and the mornings are getting chilly, you know it’s time to hit the fields and woods to chase those elusive four-legged creatures that are so fun and challenging to hunt.
I have been hunting deer in Texas for 14 seasons now, and for several of those seasons I hunted exclusively on public land. I have chased whitetail deer across Texas in woods, plains, prairie and bayous. Since I have spent hundreds of hours researching properties and scouting land, I have decided to share all of the information I’ve learned here.
I’ll begin by answering a basic question:
Is There Any Public Hunting Land In Texas?
Yes, there is a lot of public land for hunting in Texas. There are over 2 million acres of public land to hunt in the state of Texas, and most of it can be hunted for deer.
There is a wide variety of areas all across Texas that you can hunt whitetail deer, axis deer and mule deer on (in addition to ducks, turkey, hogs and much more).
Can I Hunt Deer On Public Land In Texas?
Yes, you can hunt deer on public land in Texas.
There are often special restrictions about when, where and how, and the restrictions vary from one property to the next (even from the same governing agency).
The most popular ways to hunt deer on public land in Texas are via the TPWD Annual Hunting Permit and TPWD Drawn Hunts. I have used both methods to hunt different critters.
I have only used the AHP permit a few years, because there just aren’t a lot of good properties close to where I live, and that’s the sort of walk-on situation where you need to put in lots of hours to find real success with a deer hunt. Permits are $48 in addition to your normal hunting license, and are good for the entire year. If you hunt multiple species and have ample properties nearby, this is an easy investment.
I have gone on 2 different drawn hunts, with 1 successful harvest. It’s a really fun way to explore new areas of the state that you wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to hunt. I apply to 6 or 7 properties every year in August, and it costs $3 per entry for most entries. Chances vary wildly from one hunt to the next, but they publish the previous year’s numbers such as number of entries, number of spots available and the success rate.
I made the video below on the LakeHub Youtube Channel along with this article about how to use the Texas Drawn Hunts system:
Where Can I Go Deer Hunting In Texas?
There are millions of acres of public hunting land available in Texas.
You can hunt National Forests, National Grasslands, National Preserves, Army Corps of Engineers properties, Wildlife Management Areas, State Parks, State Forests, State Natural Areas, and even some private properties that are leased by the state for public hunting.
The public hunting opportunities in Texas are very disjointed, and I am still discovering new opportunities right around me even in my 14th season of hunting deer here in Texas.
Here is the list of all types of public land properties that you can hunt deer in Texas (that I know of):
- State Parks
- State Natural Areas
- State Forests
- Army Corps of Engineers Lakes
- Wildlife Management Areas
- National Grasslands (USFS)
- National Forest (USFS)
- National Wildlife Refuge (USFW)
- Private Leased Land
What Do You Need To Hunt Public Land In Texas?
All you need to hunt public land in Texas is a hunting license and the correct permit or permission to hunt the specific property you want to hunt.
Permit or permission depends on the governing agency – some properties (such as certain national forests or grasslands) only require a standard hunting permit, and you can walk in and hunt. Other properties like many US Army Corps of Engineers lakes hold limited lotteries for permits that are free to enter, and other systems like the Texas Parks and Wildlife Drawn Hunts are a lottery with paid entries.
Here is a list of all the things you need to hunt deer on public land in Texas:
- Hunting license
- Means of take (bow, crossbow, rifle, shotgun or black powder rifle)
- Skinning and cleaning knife
That’s really the bare essentials you need to hunt deer on public land in Texas. You can trick it up from there to increase your odds, comfort or longevity in the field. Most deer hunting properties will require you to wear blaze orange, but that may not always be the case (such as archery-only hunting areas).
Here is a video I made for our pals at LakeHub about the essential gear you need for deer hunting:
How much does it cost to deer hunt in Texas?
Deer hunting in Texas can range from free to tens thousands of dollars.
You can find places to hunt for free on public land, and you can spend a LOT of money on a private lease, expensive deer stands, cellular trail cams, high dollar optics and much more. Hunting has become a big business sport, but you can still keep it very simple if you want to (like me).
For hunting deer on public land in Texas, you can get special hunting permits for either free, an inexpensive amount or in some cases not even required.
Where can you hunt for free in Texas?
You can hunt for free in Texas on public land. You can walk on and hunt many species on National Forests and National Grasslands without any special permit other than a Texas hunting license, and you can hunt around 23 different lakes in Texas through free permits obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Where can you hunt whitetail deer on public land in Texas?
Most public land deer hunting opportunities in Texas will be fore whitetail deer. That is the most prolific deer species in the state, and covers most of the geographical area of the state.
Where can you hunt mule deer on public land in Texas?
There are public land mule deer hunting opportunities in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. Lake Meredith is an APH property that has a mule deer season up near Amarillo, and there are several mule deer hunts in the Drawn Hunts system in the Trans-Pecos area near Big Bend.
Where can you hunt axis deer on public land in Texas?
There is limited public land axis deer hunting available in the Texas Hill Country. These are offered through the Drawn Hunts system under the “Exotic” category. Axis are not native deer to Texas, and can only really be found around high-fenced ranches that breed them.