If we were making a list of the states with the strongest hunting culture, Texas would surely top it. Rare households scattered around vast lands inhabited by plentiful game animals created it. Hunting was a routine in old times, but today, Texans don’t hunt for food. They hunt because they can’t not hunt, for hunting has become an integral part of the local lifestyle.
We asked GritrOutdoors, a Texas-based outdoor sports store selling numerous quality hunting gear, to prepare an article on the best places to hunt in Texas. We hope it will be helpful to awakening beginners growing conscious about their nature as well as curious outlanders seeking to fall into the Lone Star State lifestyle.
The Lone Star State offers plenty of great hunting opportunities. The area is massive, with 10 ecosystems spanning it, from deserted Trans-Pecos to green Pineywoods, from subtropical South Texas Plains to northern Cross Timbers covered in grasslands. Texas is home to an array of critters. You can hunt whitetail deer, mule deer, doves, waterfowl, javelina, pronghorn, turkey, gators, as well as such exotic animals as aoudad sheep, axis deer, nilgai, and blackbuck antelope.
About 95% of Texas lands are privately owned, with hundreds of hunting ranches and lodges. It leaves us with only 5% of public lands (1.2 million acres of Texas public hunting land), but these are also great. Moreover, a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit grants you full access to over 180 hunting areas, including state parks, WMAs, and more than a hundred lands leased from private landowners.
If fortune favors you, you should try to score a permit from the Public Hunt Drawing System by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Texas Drawn Hunts provide an opportunity to reach managed lands and Texas exotic hunting that are otherwise inaccessible to hunters and pursue any huntable game for a symbolic fee.
Now, let’s get straight to the topic. What places and areas are considered the best for recreational and Texas trophy hunting?
Best Hunting Areas in Texas
Usually, when people think of Texas, they imagine deserts, mountains, and other stuff in yellow and brown. However, don’t let that stereotype take you over because the state has its greens and blues.
It’s easy to guess why the Pineywoods ecoregion bears such a name. It’s located in East Texas with a humid subtropical climate and has numerous coniferous and hardwood forests. People say the flora, climate, and terrain resemble the southeastern U.S.
If you’re interested in Texas deer hunting, Pineywoods should be your prime choice because whitetails are the highest-profile game animal. Deer aren’t the biggest there, but they are plentiful, and TPWD actively manages its population. The area contains four U.S. forests, and the largest of them – Sam Houston, starting about 30 minutes from North Houston – gets around 30% of all Pineywoods APH permits. The Texas whitetail deer season begins on November 5 and finishes on January 1 (north) or January 15 (south).
In the Sam Houston territory, you can also hunt feral hogs, doves, waterfowl, quails, coyotes, and squirrels.
Small game and waterfowl hunters may also try Lake O’ The Pines. 18,700 water surface acres provide great opportunities for hunting ducks and other waterfowl.
Hill Country forms the southern portion of Edwards Plateau located in central Texas. Again, the name hints at its dominating landscape -rugged hills and karst.
Texas Hill Country is best-known for its abundant turkey, specifically for Rio Grande turkey. According to TPWD, the community of beautiful Rio Grande gobblers is the only population of wild turkeys in the state. The dry weather of Texas, and Hill Country in particular, and resulting draughts adversely affect turkey. Still, the trend for production is positive, so your odds for harvesting a trophy, 4 feet tall Rio are pretty high, especially when hunting spring turkey with a call. Kerr WMA is a good place to test your skills.
Deer is another big draw in Hill Country. As is the case with Pineywoods whitetail population, bucks are smaller, and the chances you take down a record-breaker are not high. However, the community is abundant, and if you’re skilled, you’ll bag that buck for sure.
Other game animals include feral hogs, squirrels, doves, and javelina.
South Texas Plains
From Texas Hill Country, we’re moving further south. South Texas Plains is famous for its heavy, record-breaking bucks. However, there are not many public hunting areas, and hunting whitetail will almost certainly take place on private lands and cost you a couple of thousands of dollars.
If whitetail is not your pursuit and you’re more into the upland bird and small game hunting, your opportunities expand. Many dove hunters are in love with Las Palomas WMA. The Texas dove season lasts from September (best time to shoot dove) to December. The place is also great for hunting quail, chachalaca, and rabbits.
The region is also abundant in javelinas. As for exotic hunting, South Texas is a great place to hunt nilgai (by draw only).
There are no prizes for guessing what kind of hunting takes place the most on Gulf Prairies – waterfowl, of course. Recently, the region had vast rice fields and was famous for being a big drag for geese, attracting more than 1 million individuals from all over the country each season. However, when the access to river water was cut off, snow geese found other places to flock.
Coastal Prairies still attract around 2 million ducks every season. For example, the region winters about 95% of gadwall, 90% of mottled duck, 80% of redhead, and 60% of lesser scaup populations.
The access to waterfowl is wild there. 360 miles of Texas coastline has lots of beautiful, game-rich places, many of which are public. Try shallow bays and marshes of Mad Island, Justin Hurst, and Guadalupe Delta WMAs. These are rich in wigeon, teal, redheads, and pintail. By the way, the South Texas duck season dates for 2022-2023 are November 5-27 and December 10-January 29.
If you’re tired of deer, welcome to the Trans-Pecos ecoregion spanning West Texas. Though the chances you encounter a massive whitetail are high, the land has other dwellers that might catch your interest.
West Texas is all desert valleys, mountains, and sand hills, which is an ideal habitat for desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. However, you’ll have to pay a couple or three thousand dollars for the access.
Other options include quail, dove, waterfowl, and rabbits. Try Elephant Mountain, Black Gap, and Sierra Diablo WMAs.
Of course, our list of the best hunting places in Texas is far from comprehensive, but now that you know a little more about Texas wildlife and hunting areas, you can do your own research based on the given information. And don’t forget to check the Gritr Outdoors hunting gear when preparing for your upcoming hunts.