From wings to water, big game and birds, Texas has it all. When most hunters think about venturing to the Lone Star State for a hunt, high fence exotics come to mind. While that’s a wonderful break from reality, Texas is home to a bounty of native, free-range game animals. Here is a selection of game you’ll find in the Lone Star state, along with some details to help with your Texas hunting success.
Season: Texas Dove hunting seasons are broken down by area, with north, central, and south zones. North regular season runs September 1 to November 12, 2020, and December 18 to January 3, 2021. Central Zone runs September 1 to November 1 and December 18 to January 14, 2021. South zone runs September 14 to November 1 and December 18 to January 23, 2021. There’s also special White Winged Dove days in 2020 slated for September 5, 6, 12, and 13. Legal shooting hours for that special season are limited from noon to sunset. All other dove days run one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Why hunt Doves: Think high volume shooting, inexpensive hunts, pleasant weather, and delectable bacon-wrapped dove breasts on the grill. Got your attention? Then you’ll love dove hunting in Texas, as the Lone Star State boasts a booming bird population and early seasons. Also, bag limits are generous with a daily take of 15 birds and a possession limit of 45 doves. That makes Texas a hot spot for traveling hunters wishing to get in on some action, lots of shooting, and more birds than one can imagine. Outfitters often book the best dates a year in advance, so if you want to go guided it’s best to book early.
Places to Hunt: Land rich with September Doves is rich in Texas, though some of the most productive locales are found in Central and South Texas. Hunters planning to shoot for the skies can research locations, as many northern zone counties are underrated targets.
Season: Firearms general seasons vary from north to south zones, but dates usually run early November through early January. There is also a special late-season that covers most of January and in some areas into February.
Why hunt TX Deer: As a generalization, deer in the south are smaller of both body and antler size than their brethren in the north that have easier access to rich foods. Hunting Texas Whitetails, however, is a special treat in some amazingly rugged terrain and with quite different weather than most Midwestern and western buck hunters face. As a further challenge, South Texas Whitetails have their own category in record books like SCI, so serious deer hunters will want to put this on their bucket list.
Places to Hunt: Options abound for hunting Whitetails throughout much of the entire state. Booking with an outfitter or accessing a ranch will be the best bet for hunters traveling any distance, though deer hunting is allowed with significant public access. A $48 Annual Hunting Permit, for walk-ins, allows hunters full access white-tailed deer, feral hogs, dove, quail, turkey, waterfowl, rabbit, squirrel, and more.
Season: The General season for Mule Deer varies slightly by area across the counties in the Panhandle and Southwestern Panhandle. Those dates span November 23 to December 8, while other areas run November 29 to December 15.
Why hunt TX Muleys: Many hunters don’t even think of Texas as a Mule Deer destination, but the state’s Panhandle prairie grasslands and the southwestern type of desert terrain are home to healthy and wily bucks. Mule deer steaks make dandy table fare and the wide, tall racks of Muley bucks are true trophies.
Places to hunt: Like other species on this list, several of the state’s Wildlife Management Areas fall within the Texas counties open to Mule Deer hunting. They make great public access points. For those unfamiliar with the area or lacking time to scout, numerous outfitters offer 3-to-5 day Mule Deer hunting packages.
Season: Varies by area hunted, but duck seasons generally run from early November through late January of the following year. There is a statewide Teal season from September 14 to September 29 for early fall waterfowlers.
Why hunt TX Waterfowl: Taking aim at the skies in Texas may just be one of the most underrated pastimes in the state. While other hunters are targeting big game, bountiful pintails, teal, mallards, widgeon, redheads, and many more offer world-class wing shooting along with pleasant weather conditions.
Places to Hunt: Close your eyes and point to a map of Texas and odds are good you’ll be able to find a spot for some wingshooting. Public access points and outfitters alike are teeming, and the opportunities are plentiful — including inland rivers and lakes, interior grain fields, and even into the panhandle. Texas WMAs offer outstanding public waterfowl hunting spots. While there are almost two dozen areas open to waterfowlers, check out the Guadalupe Delta WMA or Tawakoni WMA.
Rio Grande Turkeys
Season: While Texas also has a much smaller population of Eastern Turkeys, there’s nothing quite like chasing Texas Rios. There are both spring and fall seasons, with dates varying by north and south zones, as well as several special locales. Check regulations for all details, but general dates go late March/early April through May in the spring and early November through late January.
Why hunt Rios: Whether working on your Wild Turkey slam, seeking turkey for the freezer, or Rio fans for the wall, Texas is home to what is likely the most plentiful spread of Rios in the US. Tags are readily available and both outfitters and public land options are plenty.
Places to Hunt: Given the vast expanses of Texas land, ideal terrain, and quality game management, Rio Grande turkeys thrive throughout the Lone Star State. Many outfitters offer Rio hunts, and while that’s more costly than DIY, it’s much cheaper than guided big game adventures while still experiencing all Texas has to offer. Many ranches have booming bird populations as well, and a little pay-to-play will be money well spent. It’s possible to get multiple turkey tags for many areas.
Season: Javelina areas are broken down into northern and southern zones. Open dates for the Northern area are October 1 to February 23, while the southern zone runs September 1 to August 31; but be aware there are numerous counties with no open season.
Why hunt Javelina: While Wild Boars flourish in Texas, Javelina are a much more unique and sought-after trophy. Much like big ‘ole boar hogs, Javelina meat can be potent if not dressed correctly but still makes decent table fare in the hands of a capable chef.
Places to Hunt: Javelinas, or Peccaries, are well trenched in the southern and southwestern parts of Texas. The only other place to find wild Peccaries in America is a small part of New Mexico and a swath of Southern Arizona. In Texas, Javelina are classified as a game animal and may be legally harvested with a hunting license during hunting season in counties that have a season. They make a great side-hunt while pursuing other native game or trophies in their own right.
Season: Gator hunting in Texas is broken down into Core and Non-Core counties. Core area season dates span September 10 to September 30 while Non-Core counties are open to Gator hunters from April 1 to June 30.
Why hunt Gators: The better question is why not? Unless hunters live in the deep south, the chance to hunt native toothy reptiles is non-existent and Texas is one of the best-kept secrets for Gator hunting. Whether you’re after a memorable experience, the leather for new boots, purses, and belts, or the delectable white meat of alligator tail, there are more reasons to hunt Gators than not.
Places to Hunt: Choose an outfitter if you’re not familiar with chasing reptilians. Confident hunters will find ample public access as well. Areas like the JD Murphree WMA on the TX/LA border has long been a hotspot for alligator hunters.
Texas Desert Bighorn Sheep
Season: Hunt dates may vary by tag type and location, but hunting is often allowed for many months out of the year. Tags are hard to come by, however, and some of the best chances are by state-run lottery.
Why hunt TX Deserts: This is one of the most prestigious, physically demanding, and rewarding of all Texas hunts. Desert sheep can be hunted in many southwestern states and Mexico, but Texas is flying under the radar. Desert Bighorn populations have been on the rise thanks to outstanding conservation and re-introduction efforts. Over 1,500 animals can be found in several of the state’s rugged mountain ranges.
Places to Hunt: Those lucky enough to draw a Texas Desert Bighorn tag will most likely want to work with an outfitter who spends much of the year scouting Deserts. Consider this a once-in-a-lifetime hunt and do it right.