Public Dove Hunting Program
A common phone call that TPWD biologists receive concerns public hunting opportunities in Texas. Many of these calls come from recent transplants to Texas. Texas certainly lags behind many other states in public hunting opportunity because of our lack of public lands. However, between the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there are more than 2 million acres of land available for public hunting in the state.
TPWD alone has over 1.1 million acres of TPWD administered land available for public hunting in Texas; These include stateowned Wildlife Management Areas and State Parks; WMA's leased from federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers; and lands leased from private landowners. Most big game hunting opportunities are limited entry hunts that are applied for in the fall. These include hunts for whitetailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, feral hogs, wild turkey and even bighorn sheep. The odds of drawing these hunts vary greatly, with pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and trophy white-tailed deer being the longest odds. But those who "just want to shoot a deer" have a pretty good chance of being drawn. Some of the hunt units do not fill all their slots every year. Drawn hunts generally require a $3 application fee, and if drawn the hunter pays a hunt fee of $75-$125.
By far the most accessible public hunting is the over 50,000 acres in Public Dove Hunting Areas that are usually private lands that are leased by TPWD for public dove hunting. All that is required to hunt these properties is a hunting license with a dove stamp and an Annual Public Hunting (APH) permit.
The APH can be purchased at any license vendor, and shortly after the permit is purchased you will be mailed 2 booklets detailing the properties and species you can hunt with this permit. This is also available on-line at www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Hunters can begin scouting the dove hunting areas one week prior to the opening of the season, and this is important. That lease that was devoid of doves last year might be red-hot shooting this year. TPWD biologists monitor these leases and we have seen two hunters 100 yards apart, one with 12 birds and one with none. Your location in the field is important. Like most hunting, the good hunting areas that are easiest to get to are the ones that fill up first, so get their earlier or be willing to walk farther than most. This is also true of the public waterfowl areas on the coast.
Hunters who have success on public areas are often tight-lipped about exact locations, so often you will need to hunt a public area several times before you see it true potential. If you have a friend who can show you the ropes of public hunting this can greatly improve your success. Area biologists want hunter success and are a good source of information, so don't be afraid to ask. Once you find that public honey-hole through lots of sweat you'll understand. Texas has some excellent public hunting for migratory birds. Get out and give public hunting a shot!
If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ wildlifebiologist.