By Lee Mason
Hog hunting has exploded in popularity over the last decade, due in no small part to the explosion of the wild hog population. The state of Texas is ground-zero for feral hogs and hog hunting opportunities. Despite the overwhelming majority of the state being privately owned, public hunting opportunities do exist and hog hunting on Texas public land can be a great weekend jaunt or epic adventure!
Gaining Access to Texas Public Hunting Land
Depending where you get your numbers, Texas is between 95% and 98% privately owned. Lucky for us Texas is huge and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has done an outstanding job working with private landowners to lease properties for public hunting access as well as creating state-run wildlife management areas (WMAs). All told, there are over 1,000,000 (yep, one-million!) acres of public hunting land in Texas! Gaining access is also surprisingly easy.
Step 1: You have to have a valid hunting license. If you are a Texas resident born after September 2, 1971 you have to take a hunter’s safety course before you can get your hunting license. It is a one-time class that covers you for the rest of your life. Once you have your hunter’s safety certification, you can buy a hunting license at almost any sporting goods store.
Step 2: You must purchase an Annual Public Hunting (APH) permit. As of this writing an APH costs $48 and, just like your Texas hunting and fishing license, is good between September 1st and August 31st of any given year. Texas hunting and fishing licenses must be renewed each year after August 31st regardless of when you purchased the license. You can purchase the APH with your license at the same locations. You can also purchase the APH by itself if you already have your hunting license.
A few weeks after you buy your APH the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will send you a map book in the mail showing all of the properties and WMAs now available to you! It really is that easy. If you are chomping to get out and hog hunt before the book arrives, you can also access it online here: TPWD APH Information
Where to Hunt
You have your Texas hunting license, APH permit, and are starting to look through your Texas Public Hunting Lands map book… so, where should you go? This is where I can help save you a lot of time. Learn from my mistakes and benefit from my scouting, because I’m just going to give it to you. If you’ve read this far you deserve some honest tips on what WMAs hold hogs and what WMAs don’t, because even if I give it to you, it still takes a lot of work to kill a wild hog on Texas public land, but it is a ton of fun!
WMAs where I have had success
Old Sabine Bottom WMA: Old Sabine Bottom (OSB), near Lindale, Texas, is one of my favorite places to hunt wild hogs. At over 5,000 acres it is large enough that you can get away from other hunters. OSB is mostly river-bottom habitat, heavily forested with sloughs and creek beds that usually contain water with the northern boundary of the WMA being the Sabine river. There are a lot of hogs here but due to the WMA being much longer east-to-west than north-to-south, finding them can take some walking (that is going to be key on most of these WMAs). The one drawback to Old Sabine Bottom is that it floods very easily, which drives the wildlife to surrounding higher elevations on private land. You can check if it is flooded by visiting their facebook page here: OSB Facebook Page Old Sabine Bottom is actually where I killed my very first wild hogs (I bagged 4 at one time) using my dad’s trusty Winchester 94 30-30 back in 2005.
Richland Creek WMA: Similar to Old Sabine Bottom, Richland Creek WMA is primarily bottom land along the Trinity river below Richland Chambers Reservoir, east of Corsicana, Texas. It is heavily forested with numerous sloughs and boggy areas and at over 9,000 acres provides room to roam. Access is along a main road on the northern end of the WMA, from there you have to walk-in, but this place has lots of trails and natural gas line cuts, so you can get pretty far in if you’re willing to walk. My favorite thing about this WMA is all the palmetto plants, it looks like you’re in a South Carolina swamp! Check the weather before going because this WMA is also prone to flooding, but not as bad as Old Sabine Bottom. Also, there are a LOT of snakes here. I was hunting along one of the creeks and nearly stepped on a snake with each step. I killed one of my largest boars at Richland Creek WMA, with the same Winchester 94 30-30 as mentioned previously.
Pat Mayse WMA: Near Paris, Texas, Pat Mayse WMA isn’t quite as boggy and slough filled as Old Sabine Bottom or Richland Creek. It is roughly 5,000 acres on the western side of Pat Mayse lake and consists mostly of forest. I have not hunted this WMA as much as the others, but it is where I killed my first large hog, again with my dad’s Winchester 94 30-30. You can camp on the lake at nearby Pat Mayse State Park. Also, the Red River is a short drive away and offers good catfish fishing once you’ve got a wild hog on ice!
There are a lot more WMAs available through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Public Hunting program with a common factor being that they are concentrated in eastern Texas with few WMAs offering wild hog hunting west of I-35. I have not been to them all but am willing to bet a good chunk of them have decent populations of wild hogs, after all it seems they are everywhere!
When to Hunt
On private land in Texas there is no season for wild hog hunting and although some WMAs are open year-round to hog hunting, most have seasons. If deer hunting is available on the WMA, wild hogs can generally be hunted concurrently. Many WMAs have late winter and spring seasons for wild hogs running from January through May. You will have to check the map booklet or TPWD’s website for season openings because each WMA has unique seasons. Generally, I have found the best time to hunt wild hogs on Texas public land to be January through March. The weather is still cold and hogs will not have as many ticks, plus vegetation is much less dense giving you much greater visibility in the woods. If hunting April through May, pay attention to the weather as heavy rains can flood WMAs and the increasing temperature can make hunting for wild hogs a bit less enjoyable.
How to Hunt Hogs on Texas Public Land
Truly to each their own on this one. You can set tree stands along likely travel routes and wait out the hogs. You can still hunt and hope to cross paths with a wily rooter, or you can do what I have done: walk around, look and listen for them. I will usually take a look at Google Earth and find a creek bed or terrain feature that looks interesting, then slowly stalk along it looking and listening for wild hogs. Wild hogs make a lot of noise when feeding, so keep your ears open and you may hear them from a long ways off, then just head towards them. Keep the wind in mind and move slowly, sooner or later you will bump into pigs if you put in the effort.
Common Restrictions and Amenities
Each Texas WMA is unique although many share similar rules and have similar restrictions. Always check with TPWD to ensure you are within regulations for a particular WMA. Here are some of the more common restrictions I have seen:
You’re Ready to Hunt!
There you have it! How to get access to Texas’ public hunting land, where, when and how to hunt hogs on Texas public land and a primer on some of the restrictions. In no way do I want to make hog hunting on Texas public land sound easy, because usually it isn’t. You usually can’t bait and there are no ready-made stands for you to park your butt in and wait. You will have to get out there and put in the work, but I have killed many hogs on several different WMAs (not just those I listed earlier) so you can too. Go get those hogs!
Lee Mason is the owner and craftsman at Mason Leather and has been leatherworking since 2011 and hunting since he could carry a rifle.