Hunting

**Note:  2018-19 Hunt Information will be posted the first week of July, 2018.  Applications are done on-line at tpwd.texas.gov/drawnhunts

 

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 

 


The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (refuge) offers public hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, nilgai antelope, and feral hogs. These hunts are self-guided and in a remote area with limited vehicle access allowed. Archery and firearm hunt applications and permits are processed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Public Drawn Hunt System. All refuge hunters are selected by lottery. Up to 4 people can apply together on one application.  All applications are completed online at: tpwd.texas.gov/drawnhunts. 
 
The following information applies to all public hunts at the refuge.

 Fees and Permits- Firearm permits are $80.00 each.  

Archery permits are $130.00 each. 

 The application fee is $3.00 for each hunt. 

* All hunt fees are non-refundable.

* All hunts may be canceled without notice.

* Hunt permits are not transferable.

$3 application fee for each hunt applied for. 

Service fee of $2.51 for each permit purchased.

 Applications and permits are issued through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Public Drawn Hunts website at:   
 
New for 2018-2019
Archery Hunts- A mandatory orientation is now required for all archery hunters; no one will be allowed to hunt until their orientation is completed. It is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. at the Los Fresnos Community Center, 204 N Brazil Street, Los Fresnos,  TX 78566. The dates for these orientations are:

Archery #1- Nov. 15, 2018

Archery #2- Nov. 29, 2018

Archery #3- Dec 6, 2019

Firearm Hunts- This year, mandatory orientation is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on the day prior to your selected hunt. No one will be allowed to hunt until their orientation is completed. This orientation will be conducted at the Hunt Check Station.

Regulations- Permitted hunters are subject to inspection of permits, vehicles, equipment, and bag limits by state and federal law enforcement officers. TPWD hunting regulations apply to hunting on the refuge. We encourage you to contact the TPWD at 1-800-792-1112, or tpwd.texas.gov for complete information.
All hunters must use their TPWD issued license tags, in compliance with the TPWD bag limit for Cameron County (5 white-tailed deer total, no more than 3 bucks). During all refuge hunts, unlimited feral hogs and nilgai antelope may be harvested.
 
Hunter Assistance- Hunters with mobility impairments who need special accommodations must contact the refuge Assistant Manager Sergio Vasquez ext 108 before Oct 31 For application process 
- A walk-in cooler is available at the Hunt check Station for temporary storage of game.
- A limited number of game carts are available for loan to hunters.
- The Hunt Check Station can be reached at 956-443-9227 during hunts. 

Important Refuge Regulations- In addition to the firearm and archery hunt regulations, these apply:

The maximum speed limit on Refuge roads is 25 mph unless otherwise posted.

Taking or collecting any plant or non-game animal (including venomous snakes) is prohibited.

The use of artificial lights (including car headlights and game cameras) to locate, observe, or take animals is prohibited.

Fires, littering, target practice, and commercial guiding are prohibited.

The disturbing, molesting, or interfering with any person engaged in the pursuit of an authorized activity on the Refuge is prohibited.

 

Camping- We allow camping only at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park. To contact the park, call 956-748-2044. The hunt units are not accessible from the park.

Special Caution- Africanized honey bees, alligators, and rattlesnakes are in the area. Stay alert and watch for bee activity and be cautious of venomous snakes and stinging/biting insects. Wearing snake guards or boots is recommended.

General Scouting- Hunters with permits have access to scout on the day prior, from sunrise to sunset. This date is designated for scouting only (not stand set-up).

Cattle Fever Tick Rules- Hunters must place a tarp on their vehicle to eliminate contact with a deer or nilgai carcass.  Hunters may skin deer and nilgai at the designated skinning station.   Any hides or heads removed from the refuge will be frozen on-site for a minimum of 24 hours to kill fever ticks.  You may take the skinned carcass after inspection. A wildlife resource document will be issued as proof of sex for white-tailed deer transport.  

Harvest Data - click here for the most recent harvest data.

Archery Hunt- Mandatory orientation (at the Los Fresnos Community Center), scouting, and stand set-up is scheduled for the day prior to each hunt, except Archery #2, which will occur on November 22, 2017.

Archery #1 - Nov.16 - 20, 2018

Archery #2 - Nov. 30, 2018 - Dec 4, 2019  -

Archery #3  - Dec. 7 - 11 2019

Permits:  There will be 250 hunt permits available for each archery hunt.

Download Archery Regulations HERE

  
Firearm Hunts- Mandatory orientation, scouting, and stand set-up are scheduled for the day prior to each hunt.

The application deadline for firearm hunts 1- 5  is Sept 15.  The application deadline for the firearm exotic hunts is Oct 15.

Firearm #1 - Dec. 14- 16, 2018 
Firearm #2 - Dec. 28 - 30, 2018    
Firearm #3 - Jan. 4 - 6, 2019 
Firearm #4 - Jan, 11 - 13, 2019 
Firearm #5 - Jan. 18 - 20, 2019
Firearm #6 (Exotic Only) - Jan.25 - 27, 2019  
Firearm #7 (Exotic Only) - Feb.1 - 3, 2019 
Permits: There will be 35 hunt permits available for each firearm hunt.

Download Firearm Regulations HERE. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

How can I find out about hunting on Laguna Atascosa NWR? 

Read the General Hunting Information sheet for the current year.

Read the Archery and/or Firearm Hunt Regulations for the current year.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions for Public Hunting at Laguna Atascosa NWR

Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife’s (TPWD) public drawn hunts website at tpwd.texas.gov/drawnhunts for details and applications.

If you still have a question after reviewing all these materials, call (956) 748-3607 ext. 105, and you can leave a message.  A staff person will return your call.

General Hunt Questions(see also Hunt Methods)

Where can I find more information on my hunt?

The hunt regulations and a map can be found on the TPWD public drawn hunt website or on the Laguna Atascosa NWR (LANWR) website on our hunt page.

To find the regulations on the LANWR website go to: www.fws.gov/refuge/laguna_atascosa/ . On the banner of the main page, hover over “Visit” and a menu should pop up. In that menu, click “Visitor Activities.” A new page will open, with a blue menu in a column on the left. In that column, click “Hunting.” The new page that opens has the LANWR hunt information.

What animals can be hunted at LANWR?

  White tailed deer, nilgai antelope and feral hogs.

What time can I enter the refuge during my hunting days? When do I need to leave the refuge?

Hunters may enter the refuge one hour before legal shooting hours (1.5 hours before official sunrise). Hunters must depart the refuge by 8:30 pm. Hunters who need to track game after sunset must contact the hunt check station for authorization (956-748-3607).

Where can I enter the refuge to begin hunting? 

Hunters must enter the refuge from the South, either from FM 106, Buena Vista Road,  Lakeside Drive or County Road. Hunters cannot enter the refuge from Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park.

What are the legal shooting hours?

The legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

What are the antler restrictions for the refuge?

  We do not have any antler restrictions for the refuge.

Is the entire refuge open for hunting? 

No; several units of the refuge are closed to hunting, either because of proximity to residential areas or to allow other public uses without conflict.

Applications, Drawings, Permits and Tags

Can I add people to my application after I submit it?

No. All persons who want to go on the hunt must be on the application when it is submitted.  You are allowed to have 4 people on one application.

When is the drawing for my hunt?

  Normally, the drawings will be held the next business day after the application deadline.

How do I know if I’ve been drawn for a hunt?

All applicants who are selected will receive an email from TPWD (if they provided an email when they applied). No notice will be sent to those who are not selected.

An applicant can check their status online. From the Drawn Hunts page you can click the Check Status button to view all applications you have submitted for the current season and hunts you have been selected for.

How many permits are given for my hunt/ how many people will be at my hunt?

For each archery hunt, a total of 250 permits are available.

  For each firearm hunt, a total of 35 permits are available.

Can I cancel my permit after I’ve paid?

No, once the permit has been paid for it cannot be canceled, refunded or transferred to another person.

Do you have a standby drawing for permits right before the hunt begins?

  No, there is not a standby drawing at Laguna Atascosa NWR.

What if I lose my permit/forget to bring it?

Hunters will need to show a copy of the permit on an electronic device if they do not have it printed. 

Someone in my hunting party can’t go-- can we take someone else in his/her place?

No. If someone is unable to go, the permit cannot be cancelled, refunded or transferred to another person.

I’ve been drawn for a deer and exotic hunt, but I only want to hunt exotics. Do I need to buy the deer license if I’m not going to get any deer?

No; if all the hunter is going to hunt are exotics, he or she will only need to purchase an exotic license.

Will the refuge issue us tags for our game?

No; the hunter will need to use his or her own tags from his or her own hunting license.

General Refuge Questions

What is the weather/terrain/vegetation like?

Weather: The weather this time of year can be unpredictable. Be prepared for warm or cold days, and possible rain.

Terrain: The terrain on the refuge is relatively flat, but can be rugged and difficult to traverse, especially after rains.

Vegetation: The refuge contains several different habitats, including coastal prairie and thick thornscrub (small trees and shrubs). The vegetation is very thick, and plants have thorns or spines.

The refuge does use prescribed burns  to manage the vegetation on our prairies, so areas may have been burned prior to your hunt.

Are mosquitoes, ticks, or snakes a problem on the refuge?

Mosquitoes and other insects: Mosquitoes and chiggers are prevalent in the area; bug spray is recommended.

Ticks: Ticks are found throughout the refuge area. It is extremely likely that while out in the field you may pick up some ticks. Hunters are encouraged to do research as to how to avoid picking up ticks, and how to get rid of ticks.

Snakes: There are many species of snake on the refuge, including the venomous western diamondback rattlesnake and the venomous coral snake. Most snakes encountered on the refuge are relatively harmless and will leave people alone. However, we recommend hunters watch their footing and/or use snake shields or snake boots, and have the number to the hunt check station in case of an emergency.

Guests during the Hunt

Can I take someone hunting with me who does not have a permit?

  No, only individuals with a permit are allowed in the hunt units.

Can I have someone without a permit help me bring my kills out of the refuge?

  No, only individuals with a permit are allowed in the hunting units.

Scouting

When do I come for scouting?

Designated scouting periods are from official sunrise to official sunset.  The dates are published in the General Hunting Information sheet for the current year.   

What if I can’t make the scouting period?

Contact the refuge Hunt Check Station.

All are welcome to view the refuge during normal refuge hours, as long as the entrance fee is paid and all refuge rules are abided by (visitors must stay on designated trails).

Can I bring someone with me to help me scout?

The permitted hunter may bring a limit of two non-permitted individuals into the Hunt Units during the scouting period. Their names must be listed on the vehicle tag.

Can I set up equipment during the scouting period in preparation for my hunt?

Not on advance scouting dates because other hunts may occur before your hunt.  Equipment can be set up on the scouting day prior to your hunt.

Will County Road be open during scouting?

 Yes, during scouting County Road will be open from sunrise to sunset.

Can I use a drone to help me scout?

No; because lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System are considered ecologically sensitive, operating drones or any unmanned aircraft without special permits on or over refuge land is illegal.

Lodging

What are some hotels nearby?

The cities with the closest hotels are Los Fresnos, Laguna Vista and Port Isabel. There are also hotels in Harlingen, Brownsville and on South Padre Island.

*Because we are a government entity, we cannot endorse specific hotels in these areas. The hunters will need to do their own research.*

Where is there camping/ an RV campground nearby?

Limited camping space is available at Adolph Thomae, Jr. County Park, located at the north end of the refuge. Phone number is (956) 748-2044.

There are several places nearby that accommodate tents and RVs. Information can be found online through Cameron County Parks, or a search engine.

Can I stay on the refuge/ on the road just outside the refuge?

  No, staying on the refuge or on the county road is not allowed.

Orientation and Set-Up Dates

What if I can’t make the mandatory orientation for my hunt?

All hunters are required to attend the orientation. If unable to attend, the hunter must go to the hunt check station upon arrival to the refuge, and a law enforcement officer will be located to give the orientation information again. Missing the orientation is not recommended, as it may take several hours to arrange the impromptu orientation, during which time the hunter has to wait.

Is there an orientation for archery hunts?

  Yes, beginning with the 2017-18 hunts.  See the General Hunting Information Sheet for details.

Hunt Methods

What methods can I use to hunt?

 Hunters may use a portable or pop-up blind, a tripod, or stalk on the ground.

Regulations on stands and blinds:

There is a limit of one stand or blind per permitted hunter. The stand or blind must have hunter identification (name and phone number) attached. Blinds and stands may NOT be attached to trees. Blinds and stands cannot be made out of vegetation. Blinds and stands must be removed at the end of your hunt period.  See regulations for all details.

Can I carry my handgun with me?

Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuges must comply with all provisions of state and local law.

How do I know what area I can hunt in?

Hunters are not assigned to a hunt unit or any particular area; each hunter can choose to hunt anywhere within the open units.

A list of regulations and a map of the hunt units is available online as a hunt brochure that you can download and print (see directions to the website on page 2). We also have copies of the regulations and the map at the Visitor Center.

Can I use a canoe or kayak to cross the lake/to hunt from?

 No, use of any type of watercraft is not allowed.

Can I quarter my kill and take it out in pieces?

Yes, but it is necessary to bring out the head of the animals so that species and sex can be identified. If the hunter does not wish to keep the skin, it can be left in the field. The Texas Animal Health Commission will check all skins that come to the check station.

 All game must be checked and reported at the hunt check station. Hogs do not need to be retrieved, but must be reported.

Is there a place provided where we can hang our game to clean and skin it?

Yes, we do have a skinning station provided for hunters to use. However, game must be gutted in the field.

Information on species:

We do not have the current population numbers for any of the species on the refuge.

We do not calculate success rates from previous years.

We recommend hunters do their own research to learn about the species they will be hunting.

In regards to “quality deer:” The refuge manages for healthy populations, not for trophies.

Roads, Cars and Bikes

What is the construction near the refuge? Why is the entrance road in such bad condition? 

The construction on FM 106 and Buena Vista Road is being done by the Texas Department of Transportation.  They are reconstructing 11.4 miles of road from FM1847 to FM510.   The main reasons for the construction are 1) to widen, upgrade and improve the condition of the road and 2) to build wildlife crossings for animals like ocelots.

The refuge does not own any part of either Buena Vista Road or FM 106, so we are unable to improve the condition of the road. Road issues should be directed to  Cameron County.

What roads can I drive on during the hunt?

During the hunt, the available roads are Buena Vista Road, Lakeside Drive, County Road, and General Brant Road (FM106). All other roads and trails are accessible only by walking or biking.

Where can I park my car during the hunt?

Parking is available at designated parking areas in Units 1 & 6, and along the side of any open road.

Can I use a bike to get to places during the hunt?

Yes, a bicycle is a great way to access the refuge trails. However, be aware that the area is full of thorny vegetation; we advise bringing patch kits and other emergency equipment. 

Can I use a motorized transport to get my kill out of the refuge?

Any type of motorized transport is restricted to the roads mentioned above. This often means that the hunter will be carrying their game on foot or by bicycle. It is up to the hunter to find a way to bring his or her game to the hunt check station.

I’m disabled; is there a way I can use motorized transport to help me with the hunt?

For a disabled person to use motor transport, the hunter will need to contact the Wildife Biologist prior to October 31 to apply for a special use permit.  Documentation from a doctor and an ATV safety course are required.

The Hunt Check Station

What do I do on the first day of my hunt? 

For all hunts:   On the first day of your hunt, you should not enter the hunting areas until after the orientation. After orientation, the Law Enforcement officers will open the gates to the hunting areas and hunting may begin.

Do I need to check in at the beginning of every day of my hunt?

  No, there is no need to check in every day for your hunt.

Will there always be someone at the check station?

Not always, but there will be a phone number hunters can call to talk to someone who can help them. Phone number (956) 443-9227.

Do I need to bring my game back to the hunt check station?

Deer and nilgai need to be checked at the station prior to departing from your hunt. Feral hogs do not need to be retrieved or checked, but must be reported at the station.

If I need help getting my game out of the hunt unit, what can I do?

If you need assistance of any kind during the hunt, you may call the hunt check station, and if someone is available to help he or she will be sent out after legal shooting time ends (see legal shooting hours on page 3). However, staff is limited, so we will not be able to assist every hunter.

Hunters should plan on being able to do everything themselves, without the help of refuge staff.

Will I be able to purchase any equipment or food at the hunt check station?

No, but snacks and drinks are available for purchase at the Visitor Center.

There is also a Stripes convenience store at the intersection of FM 510 and Highway 100 in Laguna Vista.

Information on Nilgai Harvests

What are the controlled exotic hunts I’m hearing about?  Why are these harvests done?

Since the fall of 2014, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has been under a cattle fever tick quarantine administered by U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has cooperated with the USDA and TAHC’s cattle fever tick eradication program and has been at the forefront of control efforts within the quarantine zone.

USDA identified nilgai, an introduced exotic antelope, as a known carrier of the ticks.  USDA and TAHC requested immediate control methods be implemented on Refuge lands.  Through USDA and TAHC, the Refuge had been harvesting nilgai at an accelerated rate. Based on the number of nilgai harvested on prior public hunts, it was determined that aerial harvests were a necessary and immediate measure on refuge lands to reduce the spread of the tick by nilgai.  The agencies partnered with Trinity Oaks, a non-profit that would process and donate the meat.  Due to the required frequency of the harvests and associated workload, Broken Arrow Ranch stepped in to assist with processing on several harvests. 

Additional hunting opportunities were implemented (exotic only hunts) starting with the 2016-17 hunt season.   Should population numbers increase, the agencies may seek alternative methods of control, however at this time the hunting community is being asked to help keep numbers in check through additional hunts.

The Refuge is committed to working with the community and agency partners to help address the cattle fever tick issue in south Texas.