Stand by for Turkeys
By Larry D. Hodge
Texas wildlife management areas offer last-minute turkey hunting opportunities.
If you failed — again — to get drawn for a spring turkey hunt on a TPWD wildlife management area, don’t despair. In fact, your chances of getting a hunt may have just improved.
There were 270 permits available for hunts on nine different areas this spring. Based on last spring’s results, as many as 75 of them may be available to hunters willing to try for a standby position. Last year 57 people applied for 75 available standby positions, and 54 got to hunt. Only two areas had more applicants than positions, and all nine of San Angelo State Park’s standby positions went begging. Most areas hold multiple hunts, so if you don’t get drawn at first, keep trying.
Standby positions occur when drawn hunters fail to pay their permit fee by the deadline or when paid hunters notify TPWD they will not be able to make the hunt. Standby hunters must appear in person at the hunt location on the morning of the first day of the hunt. If there are more hopefuls than positions open, the hunt master will conduct a drawing for the standby positions. The odds of being drawn will probably be much better than in the computer drawing, where there may be 40 or more applicants for each permit. If you are drawn for a standby position, you still must pay the permit fee for the hunt. Any preference points you’ve earned for the computer drawing are not affected.
Don’t be scared off by the requirement to appear in person with no guarantee of success. About a week before the hunt date, call the WMA manager at the number listed in the Applications for Drawings on Public Hunting Lands booklet. At that time he or she should be able to tell you if any standby positions are expected to be available. Mid-week hunts are generally a better bet than weekend hunts.
Last spring I traveled to the James E. Daughtrey WMA and was one of 14 successful applicants for a standby hunt. paid the $50 hunt fee, and the first afternoon I called in a mature tom — but he somehow spotted a slight movement while still out of range, and I didn’t get a shot.
Going standby can get you a hunt, but it’s still up to you to get the turkey.
If going standby sounds too risky, consider purchasing an Annual Public Hunting Permit for $40, which will entitle you to hunt eastern turkeys on 26 public hunting units and Rio Grandes on one unit for the entire spring season.