I think we can all agree that finding a quality place to hunt at a reasonable price in Texas can be a pretty challenging endeavor. Since upwards of 97 percent of land in the state is privately owned, there aren’t many public land hunting opportunities in Texas.

So, if you or someone you’re close to is not a landowner, then you probably only have two choices: either hunt out of state or shell out some serious cash for a hunting lease or a guided hunt on private land.

What if I told you there was another option, though?

Fortunately, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) administers a program giving hunters the opportunity to access over 1 million acres of land in over 100 counties scattered all over the Lone Star State. Known officially as the Public Hunting Program, hunters can purchase an annual permit and take advantage of myriad outdoor recreation activities on a mixture of government managed public land as well as leased private land enrolled in the program.

In today’s post, I’m going to tell you all about the Public Hunting Program and how you can take advantage of some hunting opportunities you might not have even known existed.

First established back in 1987, the Public Hunting Program is dedicated to providing family oriented outdoor recreational activities in Texas. The program has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and TPWD continues to expand hunting opportunities offered by the program as much as possible.

These lands currently offer hunting for deer, feral hogs, dove, quail, waterfowl, turkey, and small game.

However, dove hunting is an especially popular aspect of the program. For that reason, TPWD has really focused on adding new dove fields within a reasonable distance from the large metropolitan areas in the state during recent years. This year, permit holders can hunt on approximately 120 dove fields and small game units, mostly concentrated on private land.

For a full list of all public hunting lands administered by the program, download the Public Lands Map Booklet from the TPWD web site. Alternatively, you can view an interactive map of the hunting units online as well.

An Annual Public Hunting Permit (APH) costs $48 and permit holders may hunt, fish, camp, and hike on over 180 hunting units enrolled in the program. Limited Public Use Permits (LPU) cost $12 and provide access to those same lands for all outdoor activities except for hunting. Children under the age of 17 may accompany an adult with a permit for free on all lands enrolled in the program.

Keep in mind that you must still purchase the appropriate licenses, stamps, and tags to hunt on APH lands, though.

Additionally, some of the APH units are available on a "first-come, first-served" basis while others accept telephone reservations or only allocate certain hunting opportunities through a random draw. Read the Public Lands Map Booklet or the online information for each specific unit for details.

So, if you’re looking for a place to hunt in Texas, check out the lands you can hunt with an APH. You just might discover a really good hunting opportunity near you.