I started hunting in December 2017 and organizing the logistics to go on my first hunt was extremely difficult. Two years into hunting and I’ve finally started to find good opportunities for hunting in Austin, Texas that are NOT expensive (most are).
To get started, I paid for guiding / education and access to land. I still pay when I travel for hunting on Molokai or other locations. I organize and curate hunting experiences for beginners called APEX and I created a full in-depth video series to teach Ethical Hunting.
My intention with this post is to provide hunting opportunities in the Austin, Texas area that are very affordable for someone looking to get started without a large budget.
- Where to purchase your weapon (if you don’t have one)
- Where to hunt
- When to hunt
Where to Purchase Your Weapon
For those who are totally new to the concept of hunting (like I was), I suggest visiting Sportsman’s Finest in Bee Caves. It is a bit out of downtown, but almost all stores of this type will be (Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops etc).
I like Sportsman’s Finest because it’s locally owned (Nicholas Vedros), which means they are smaller and have more capacity to help 1-on-1. They have a full selection of guns (which I don’t know about as I’ve never used them).
They also have an archery section well-managed by Will Cooper. If you opt for compound bowhunting, they have a small 20 yard range where you can practice.
NOTE: crossbows are considered archery in Texas, which require less practice / skill and still offer opportunities to hunt when rifle isn’t allowed.
Where to Hunt Near Austin, TX
The hardest part about hunting in Texas is access to land. Most of the state is private, which means the best (and most assured) hunting grounds are large ranches and landowners.
I have hunted on numerous large ranches and the likelihood of success is almost always going to be higher when hunting on private land. However, starting at $550 – $2000 for a night or weekend, it might be too expensive for many.
There are two classes of affordable options:
- Free hunting on wildlife management areas
- Drawing tags (raffle / lottery) wildlife management areas
To access either, you must buy a hunting license ($25) and Annual Public Hunting Permit (APH) ($48). For the year round opportunities, it will only cost you $73 all of which goes to state conservation.
Free Hunting Opportunities
#1. Granger Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
Located about 45 minutes north from downtown Austin, Granger WMA consists of 10,888 acres. For people with compound bows (or crossbows), feral hogs are fair game year round with no bag limit.
This means you can kill as many feral hogs as you want per day every day of the year in theory. Same with squirrels and rabbits.
#2. Stiles Farm
This private 1,193 acres is opened to the public during certain seasons. It’s a 45 minute drive from downtown Austin. Most of the hunting dates are in the fall and focus on birds (dove, teal, duck), but during the dates, it’s also possible to hunt feral hogs, rabbits, and hare. The season for 2018-2019 is as follows:
- Sep 1 – Nov 4
- Nov 10 – 25
- Dec 21 – Jan 14
#3. Paige West
This small 300 acre plot about 50-55 minutes from downtown Austin has similar restrictions as Stiles Farm. The date range is Sep 1 – Nov 4. See the full map and restrictions here.
Aside from the free hunting near Austin, TX, there are seasonal opportunities depending on a raffle / lottery drawing. The Texas Public Hunt System has a “Drawn Hunt Catalog” with all of the relevant hunts, permits, and costs. These are updated every summer for the upcoming season.
For those who do not wish to travel far from Austin (Texas is a large state, after all), here are a few draws to put in for, the cost (for your lottery ticket), and the link for last year’s details:
- Travis County Ranch – $10
- Granger PHL – $0
- Balcones Canyonlands NWR – $3
- Pedernales Falls SP Annex – $3
- Bastrop SP – $3
- Honey Creek SNA – $3
- Albert & Bessie Kronkosky SNA – $3
- Government Canyon SNA – $3
- Palmetto SP – $0
Applying for all these locations would cost about $28 with a fair chance of success.
When to Hunt Near Austin, TX
There are year round seasons for hunting in Texas, but they are generally based upon the animal. Some animals are hunted in the Spring (wild turkey) while others are hunted in the Fall (deer, game birds). Generally, the Texas hunting season is in the Fall.
However, feral hogs are specifically fair game anytime during the year. When many Austin hunters put up their rifle and gun during the scorching summer months, it may be worthwhile to go out hunting.
Hogs are most active July – September because there is little food and less water. They move around a lot so it’s possible to spot and stalk feral hogs if you are listening carefully.
This is counter to most advice. Traditional Texas hunting wisdom generally uses corn feeders / bait and hunts infrequently in the summer. Give it a try if you’re up for the heat.
Hunting in Austin Texas
In my experience, the more hunting that you do, the more likely you are to run into other hunters and landowners. Once this happens, it is plausible that you’ll be granted access to private land (especially to hunt feral hogs, which are considered a nuisance to many).
But if you take the initiative and try for yourself, there is a good chance the stars will align to have success near the Austin area.