ASK ANYONE WHO has played the game and they will tell you deer leases aren’t cheap.
I’ve got several friends and acquaintances who routinely fork more than $7,000 or more in annual lease dues.
It would be nice if annual dues were the only expense involved with a lease, but it’s not. In fact, lease fees are just the tip of the iceberg in a long line of expenses associated with owning a key to a locked gate.
As the cost of deer hunting on private land continues to rise, more and more hunters are getting priced out of the game. Others, meanwhile, are looking to public land to get their fix.
Texas deer hunters are lucky, because well over one million acres of public land are available across the state. You can find affordable hunting there for deer and other game during legal seasons for a fraction of the cost of a hunting lease. In some cases it’ll cost you no more than the price of a hunting license and gas for the truck to get there.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department runs one of the best and most diverse public hunting programs in the nation. This program offers hunters a wide variety options to get afield and won’t break the bank.
One of the most popular is the state’s draw program. In this program, hunters can apply online for well-organized hunts for deer and other game. Most of the hunts take place on state-managed wildlife management areas, and a few are carried out on private ranches. Only a limited number of hunters are allowed on each hunt.
Applicants pay a nominal application fee. Drawn hunters are typically assessed a hunt fee that can range from $80 to $130. In some cases there’s no hunt fee at all.
The bad news is you’re reading this now. Application deadlines for the 2019-20 deer hunt drawings closed in October. However, “standby” permits are sometimes available for upcoming hunts on some really good areas.
Finding out whether standby permits are available requires a phone call or email to the designated hunt area a week before the scheduled hunt. Any standby permits are awarded by drawing on the first day of the scheduled hunt. There’s no application fee to enter a standby drawing, but successful adult hunters must pay the permit fee. You can learn about any upcoming hunt drawings at tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/.
Some of the draw hunt areas consistently turn out better results than others:
Last season’s report in the gun deer/either sex category showed 18 areas had success rates of 80 percent or higher. The top performers were Powderhorn WMA, Colorado Bend State Park, Mason Mountain WMA and Nannie Stringfellow WMA, according to Kelly Edmiston, TPWD public hunting lands coordinator.
Edmiston said he doesn’t receive qualitative info at his office, but pointed to larger research/demonstration areas where intense habitat management practices typically kick out most of the better quality bucks.
Chaparral, Kerr and Matador, Gene Howe, Yoakam Dunes, Gus Engling and Alazan Bayou WMAs all come to mind.
“It’s hard to pick one on the WMA side,” Edmiston said. “You could say the same for some of our state parks. Sometimes looking at an area’s bag limit and antler restrictions can be a clue as to which area may have more mature deer.”
Another popular public hunting option is the Annual Public Permit. The permit costs $48 and provides access to dozens of public hunting areas across the state, but not all of them allow walk-in deer hunting.
The public hunting areas range in size from several hundred to several thousand acres where you can hunt a variety of game, fish, hike or camp. Included in the mix are more than 40,000 acres of privately owned land leased by TPWD exclusively for dove hunting.
As gun and archery deer hunting options go, the APH provides holders access to close to a dozen different parcels of property, mostly in eastern Texas. Some of the properties allow for walk-in archery hunting only. Others allow for archery and gun hunting both.
Determining which areas allow walk-in deer hunting with an APH is fairly simple, but you’ll need Internet access to do it.
Go to tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/ and click on Annual Public Hunting Permit. Scroll to “Get Started” and click on “Search for Area or Game.”
Next, enter “Deer – Archery” or “Deer – General” to locate areas that are open for walk-in hunting.
The results will list the area name, county, unit number and region along with all the game animals legal to hunt.
You can also find maps that list designated camping areas, roads, boundaries, and creeks. You’ll also find pertinent rules, regulations, special season dates and prohibited acts. It would be wise to read the “What You Need to Know” section and double check all open season dates and bag limits for the area before hunting.
Public hunting opportunities are also abundant in the Sabine, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Angelina national forests as well as the Caddo/LBJ National Grasslands. Hunting is free on these properties, unless the area has been leased to TPWD as a wildlife management area. Free hunting also can be found on certain Corp of Engineers properties.
TRUE OUTDOOR lovers encounter smells of many varieties.
From sweating it out scouting for deer season and working on blinds to the unmistakable aromas that come with cleaning fish, odor is an issue outdoor lovers encounter perhaps more than anyone.
When it comes to laundry it can be hard to get those smells out even with traditional washing.
For tough jobs check out Hero Clean Laundry Detergent.
It’s a formulated 2-in-1 Laundry Detergent to keep your gear fresh, no matter the mess you find yourself in. Targets odors for immediate and long-term odor control, like no other product on the market.
• Superior Stain and Odor Control
• Odor Defeater Technology for the Worst Sweat Caused Odors
• Seven Enzymes for Stains, Color Brightening, Whitening and Fabric Protection
• Great for Moisture Wicking Garments
• Hero Clean Juniper-Based Scent
• No Animal Testing
The detergent is available at Wal-Mart location and already has numerous testimonies of its effectiveness.
It works in all washing machines. This 2-in-1 detergent is both a super effective everyday laundry detergent and also a sports wash. For use on clothes, bedding, towels, rags, jerseys and those t-shirts you just can’t get rid of.
In addition, you can shop online and get other Hero Clean Products.
Dish + Hand Soap: Add three pumps to a sink of hot water then add dishes. Let it soak for the length of an overly witty sports highlight show segment, then rinse. For use on anything else in need of a little soapy water, dishes, hands, countertops, appliances, bad attitudes, bathrooms, floors, bikes, and F-14s…
All-Purpose Cleaner: Hold the bottle six to eight inches from the target, spray until damp, then wipe with a paper towel, rag or your ex’s t-shirt. For use on counters, sinks, Stoves, Showers, Toilets, Dashboards, Hardwood, Harleys, Tools, Shops and Man Caves.
Odor Eliminator: Hold bottle 6 to 8 inches away from the odor. Spray until damp and let dry. For use oOn clothing, gear, sheets, autos, furniture, carpeting pet zones, towels, gym bags, and anything else that doesn’t smell so fresh. It can also be used as a laundry pre-treatment to remove those nasty odors embedded in your clothes.
The scent is based on juniper. What is juniper you ask? Well, it happens to be the main ingredient in gin. We like the connection and the resulting scent that finally brings a fresh clean sophistication to the cleaning products aisle.
Learn how to judge which bucks are legal harvest according to their antlers.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS