TEXAS HUNTERS HAVE AN INCREDIBLE deal available to them.
For only $48, hunters can purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit (APH) and have an opportunity to pursue their outdoors passions on more than 900,000 acres of land.
That permit price has stayed at $48 for a very long time and has given many hunters good opportunities to venture afield thanks to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
Probably the best deal they have going are the public dove hunting tracts, many of which are located in or around suburban areas in key dove hunting regions of the states.
Five years ago, TPWD received a grant from the Farm Services Administration under USDA that expanded acreage in the program particularly in areas in close proximity to urban centers.
Doves in particular are an important part of the program.
“Our stats have shown hunters will drive about 70 miles to dove hunt. We try to get as many areas within that distance of urban centers with the idea a hunter can leave it noon, hunt until dark and then return home at a decent hour,” said TPWD biologist Terry Turney.
Dove (and small game) leases are distributed from South Texas (Brooks County) to the Panhandle (Hansford County) and from the Beaumont region (Orange County) to far West Texas (Hudspeth County).
Around 80 percent of the acreage are located in the Dallas/Ft Worth (Reg. 4), Austin/Waco (Reg. 6), Houston/Beaumont (Reg. 7), and San Antonio/Corpus Christi (Reg. 8) public hunting regions.
This aspect of the public hunting program began in 1994 as a pilot program to benefit both hunters and agricultural producers in Texas. Their short team public hunting lease program, sought to lease private lands during the dove season for use by purchasers of the APH permit.
It accomplishments are as follows:
• Since the first year, the program has found acceptance from both hunters and participating landowners. Participants are enthusiastic.
• The program has grown to from 10 units in six counties and 4,375 acres to many times that amount.
• Youth hunts were added in 2002 TPWD now offers Youth Only and Youth Adult areas
• Numerous leases are available near San Antonio, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas.
“The white wings coming out of the city (San Antonio area) are amazing and the mourning doves are covering the properties up. We have leases within easy driving distance of all the major metropolitan areas and will continue looking for prime properties as the program goes along,” Turney said.
TPWD is using the funds to get more long-term leases on some of the properties which is a benefit to both landowners and hunters who can take advantage of intimately learning a location over the course of several seasons.
An APH permit is not just about dove hunting of course but gives dozens of options for deer, hogs, pheasant, waterfowl and a variety of small game. Having grown up in East Texas, the public hunting program was an important part of my hunting experience as Timber Company lands were leased in key areas and allowed for convenient access to deer and squirrel hunting.
I remember during my first year of college getting a permit and after class (and occasionally in lieu of class) driving up to a remote creek on a lightly pressured unit and enjoying the most memorable and exciting squirrel hunts of my life. It was fun and cheap.
It might be tempting to look at this program as something that benefits older and middle aged hunters resisting pressures to quit hunting altogether. And while that is undoubtedly a positive aspect, it is the youth that may benefit the most.
2017-18 Dove Season Calendar
North Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 12 and Dec. 15-31.
Central Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 5 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 7, 2018.
Special White-winged Dove Days (entire South Zone): Sept. 2-3, 9-10.
South Zone: Sept. 22 – Nov. 8 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 21, 2018.
The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.
Young hunters can find places to hunt without breaking their budget and forge their own traditions. We can promote hunting to this generation until we are blue in the face but if they cannot afford to go, efforts are futile.
TPWD has hit a home run with the APH program and their entire public hunting program.
The results are an incredible amount of acreage to hunt for only $48, which is less than eating out these days. There is no greater value to be found in the outdoors market and this year in particular hunters are in for treat as the program moves onward and upward.
Texas hunting access is getting harder to come by unless you are at least upper middle class.
With this program, all hunters can afford to hit the field in pursuit of our top game birds-the mourning dove and its beautiful white-winged cousin.
Daily Dove Use Permits
SOME PUBLIC LANDS offer daily use permits and the bulk of them are for waterfowl and dove hunting.
A $20 fee is charged for each Regular Permit issued, however, the fee will be waived for youth hunters (under age 17) and for persons possessing an Annual Public Hunting Permit.
Requirements & Limits
• A valid hunting license and any required stamp endorsements are required to participate in these hunts.
• All participants must check in and out each day at the area check station before entering the hunt area and before leaving for the day.
• The check station will open one hour before legal shooting hours, except on waterfowl hunts when the station will open approximately two hours before legal shooting hours.
White-winged dove in the public land just
outside San Antonio are said to be “amazing.”
• The department reserves the right to limit the number of hunters, cancel or modify hunts or hunt dates, alter bag limits, or modify hunt procedures at any time to address resource and safety concerns.
• Refer to Prohibited Acts on Public Hunting Lands for additional information and restrictions.
Youth and Youth/Adult Hunts by Regular Permit
There is no minimum age to participate in these hunts. Youth must be accompanied by a supervising adult who is 18 years of age or older. Youth hunts are designated as either Youth Only or Youth/Adult. During Youth Only Hunts, only the youth is authorized to hunt.
During Youth/Adult Hunts, both youth and adults may hunt and require that each hunting party contain at least one hunting youth under 17 years of age.
Go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild//hunt/public/regular_daily_permits/ for a list of current areas offering permits.
—story by CHESTER MOORE