Sportsmen who may not have access to private lands this fall or are looking for a place to hunt closer to home can get in on some quality hunting experiences through the state’s public hunting program. Texas Parks and Wildlife offers hunting on more than 1.2 million acres. A $40 Annual Public Hunting Permit (APHP) opens the gates to a variety of hunting for game such as dove, waterfowl, turkey, deer, feral hog, quail, squirrel and rabbit. The permit comes with a map booklet of all available hunting areas. The permit can be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold. Hunters under 17 years of age do not need an APHP when accompanied by a permit-holding adult. This fall, hunters who purchase an APHP will have access to about 130 dove hunting areas covering more than 48,000 acres leased exclusively for public hunting. TPW earmarks funds generated by the public hunting program to purchase these hunting rights. The leases are scattered through all three dove-hunting zones and some cover more than 1,000 acres. For the first time, APHP holders will also have access to private land leases for a variety of other game. TPW has leased hunting rights for teal on 14 public hunting units and general waterfowl hunting on eight units. There will also be hunting opportunities for sandhill crane, pheasant, squirrel, rabbit, snipe and feral hogs. In addition to the APHP, the agency offers 6,000 hunter openings on its state parks and wildlife management areas through special drawn public hunts. Through an application process, hunters can target their favorite game, choose an area of the state and select a hunting method. As many as four hunters can apply as a group for these hunts in most cases. TPW is mailing out about 40,000 application booklets to the primary applicants from last year’s program the third week of July. Only those listed as primary applicants last year will automatically receive a booklet by mail. Application booklets may be picked up starting the last week in July at TPW field offices and at TPW state headquarters in Austin or you may request a copy by calling (800) 792-1112 (menu 5, selection 1) or (512) 389-4505. The information will also be made available this month on TPW’s web site www.tpwd. state.tx.us. Although applications can not be submitted on-line, they can be completed electronically, printed out and submitted by mail along with the appropriate application fees. There is a $2 per person application fee (for adults 17 or older listed on the card) for all special drawing hunts except youth-only hunts on which there is no application fee for either youth or supervising adult. The deadline to apply for the popular gun hunts for deer is Sept. 12. The deadline application for archery-only deer hunts is Aug. 22. TPW public hunting program director Herb Kothmann reminds applicants that they may apply in each of the 17 different categories of special drawings but must apply for only one of the areas listed within each hunt category. “We’re still seeing multiple applications by individuals within the same category and that automatically disqualifies all their applications within that hunt category,” said Kothmann. “Make sure you don’t submit duplicate entries in the same hunt category because the computer has no compassion.” The special drawn hunts are entering their 16th year of computer selection where those who applied in the past and not been drawn can build up preference points to increase their chances of selection in future drawings. “The luck of the draw still plays a big part in the selection process, but those folks who have previously applied and not been selected will have an increased chance of being drawn,” said Kothmann. For those sportsmen who want an opportunity to win a hunt of a lifetime, the Big Time Texas Hunts program will offer chances to win one or more dream package hunts with professional guide service, food and lodging provided. Proceeds are dedicated to TPW public hunting and wildlife management programs. In addition to the Grand Slam’a once-in-a-lifetime package of four separate hunts for bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and mule deer’ the Big Time Texas Hunts program includes the Texas Exotic Safari, Texas Whitetail Bonanza, Texas Waterfowl Adventure and Texas Big Time Bird Hunt. The Texas Whitetail Bonanza will provide each of 20 winners with a 3-5 day hunt for white-tailed deer on ranches throughout the state. Sorry, no guest privileges on the deer hunts. The Texas Waterfowl Adventure will enable the winner and three guests the opportunity to test their skills on a series of hunts, including geese on the coastal prairie and in the Panhandle, and ducks in East Texas and the coastal marshes. The Texas Exotic Safari will offer the thrill of African big game on TPW’s Mason Mountain WMA in Central Texas. Two winners will be drawn. Each winner will be allowed to take up two exotics and will be allowed to bring along a hunting companion who will be allowed the opportunity to hunt antlerless axis deer and hybrid ibex goats. The Texas Big Time Bird Hunt will also feature a whirlwind series of hunts for the winner and three guests, including a two-day quail hunt, two days of prime pheasant hunting in the Panhandle and two days of dove hunting. The winner and one guest will also take part in a spring turkey hunt. Taxidermy is included in the Texas Grand Slam and Texas Exotic Safari packages and the winner may bring a companion. Entries may be purchased for $10 each wherever hunting licenses are sold. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Entries may also be purchased using TPW’s toll-free license hotline. Any number of entries may be purchased and winners can reassign but not sell a hunt package to an immediate family member or to a hunter under 17. Deadline to apply for the Big Time Texas Hunts is midnight Nov. 4.