White-tailed deer buck surrounded by green vegetation

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Big Game Hunting

Aransas NWR appeals to deer hunters looking for a challenge. This coastal refuge harbors good numbers of deer and feral hogs, but finding them in the thick, brushy habitat is often difficult. Hunters have to walk in from gravel roads, and, once in the hunting area, can expect swarming mosquitoes. In some areas, they may even need to wear waders. The hunts include a 9-day archery hunt and three 5-day rifle hunts, with permits drawn by lottery. Bag limits typically allow hunters to take both antlered and antlerless deer, as well as unlimited hogs. Refuge managers say that hunters could conceivably take home many hogs, but it requires a knowledge of the hogs' habits and a good strategy to find them in their resting areas. Hogs often move only at night. Most hunters choose to hunt from tripod stands that they bring with them. These allow greater visibility in the brushy areas. Many hunters return year after year for the challenge and the social atmosphere. The refuge maintains a walk-in cooler that hunters may use for hanging, skinning and quartering game.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge offers public hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer 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.

Applications and permits are issued through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Public Drawn Hunts website.  The lottery typically opens July 1 each year.

2024 Hunt Dates:

Archery: October 5-13 (scouting September 28-29 and October 4)
Rifle 1: November 2-6 (scouting November 1)
Rifle 2: November 23-27 (scouting November 22)
Rifle 3: December 7-11 (scouting December 6)

2023 Frequently Asked Questions 

Where do I enter the refuge?
Enter the refuge at the main gate; GPS coordinates are 28.313449,-96.804022. Follow the signs to the Visitor Center, then past the Visitor Center to the Hunt Check Station.

Do I need to check in and out of the hunt area?
Yes. Each hunter will need to pick up a Self-Clearing Check-in Permit DAILY during the hunt. Click HERE to see a sample permit (PDF). Hunters must fill out and drop the top portion of the permit in the IN box as they enter the hunt area, and fill out and drop the bottom portion in the OUT box as they leave the hunt area at the completion of each day.

What are the legal shooting hours?
The legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.  Hunters are responsible for knowing local sunrise/sunset times.

Is the entire refuge open for hunting?
No; the hunt area is approximately 36,000 acres for archery and 19,000 acres for rifle hunts. Hunts are conducted in a portion of the refuge that is closed to the public.

How many permits are given for my hunt/ how many people will be at my hunt?
For the archery hunt, a total of 300 permits are available. For each firearm hunt, a total of 100 permits are available. 

Can I bring a youth hunter with me, since youth hunt free?
Youth hunters must also have a drawn hunt permit. Make sure you include youth on your lottery hunt application. If drawn, there is no charge for their permit.

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?
We may have a standby drawing if all permits are not sold.  Call or check our Facebook page for more information.

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.

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.

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 running live oak thickets. The vegetation can be very thick and difficult to walk through.
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 chiggers are prevalent in the area and can be really bad during the hunt season; bug spray is recommended, and many hunters also use Thermacell devices. Ticks are also found throughout the refuge. There are many species of snake on the refuge, including the venomous western diamondback rattlesnake and the venomous cottonmouth (also coral snakes and copperheads, though not as common). 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. 

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 during the hunt. You may bring one person to help you during scouting. Exceptions may be made for non-hunting youth ONLY for educational purposes.  Contact the refuge for specific permissions.

Can I have someone without a permit help me bring my harvested game out of the refuge?
No, only individuals with a permit are allowed in the hunting units.

What if I can’t make the scouting period?
In order to get a feel for the refuge habitat, you are welcome to visit the public area (auto tour and trails) during normal refuge hours, as long as the entrance fee is paid and all refuge rules are followed (visitors must stay on designated trails). However, the hunt area is in a closed area of the refuge and you will not be able to access that portion of the refuge outside of scout and hunt periods.

Can I bring someone with me to help me scout?
You may bring one non-permitted helper/observer into the Hunt Units during the scouting period only.

Can I set up equipment during the scouting period in preparation for my hunt?
Yes, you can set up on the designated scouting day before your hunt.

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.

Can I set up a game camera?
Yes, you may set up game cameras, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not responsible for loss, theft, or damage.  Game cameras must be removed at the end of the hunt period.

Can I stay on the refuge/on the road just outside the refuge?
No, camping on the refuge or on the county road is prohibited.

Where are the closest hotels/motels?
The cities with the closest hotels are Port Lavaca and Rockport.
*Because we are a government entity, we cannot endorse specific hotels in these areas. Hunters will need to do their own research.*

Where is there camping/ an RV campground nearby?
The closest camping/RV sites near the refuge are Hopper’s Landing near Austwell (361-286-3331) and Austwell City Park (361-286-3523). Goose Island State Park in Rockport also allows camping.  Other camping/RV sites may be available in Port Lavaca or Rockport.

Can I carry my handgun with me?
Yes.  However, 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.  Again, we suggest coming during the scouting period so that you know where you want to go and are not disturbing other hunters.

Can I quarter my kill and take it out in pieces?
Hunters may field dress and quarter harvested game in the Hunt Area. Harvest may NOT be processed in the field; facilities are available at the Check Station for processing game. Hunters are responsible for off-site carcass disposal.  

Is there a place provided where we can hang our game to clean and skin it?
Yes, we do have a processing area provided for hunters to use. However, game must be field dressed in the Hunt Area. We typically have a meat cooler available, but it may not be available this year due to construction.

Where can I park my vehicle during the hunt?
Parking is available along the side of any open road.

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 (ATV/UTV), the hunter will need to contact the refuge and apply for a special use permit at least 2 weeks before their scheduled hunt. 

If I need help getting my game out of the hunt unit, what can I do?
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?
Please plan to bring everything that you need. The nearest convenience store is in Tivoli, approximately 15 miles from the refuge.

What is a typical success rate?

2021 Harvest:
Archery - 15 bucks, 4 does, 10 hogs
Rifle 1 - 13 bucks, 6 does, 13 hogs
Rifle 2 - 8 bucks, 6 does, 14 hogs
Rifle 3 - 9 bucks, 5 does, 11 hogs

2020 Harvest:
Archery - 13 bucks, 12 does, 11 hogs
Rifle 1 - 39 bucks, 10 does, 11 hogs
Rifle 2 - 15 bucks, 9 does, 7 hogs
Rifle 3 - 15 bucks, 12 does, 8 hogs 

2019 Harvest:
Archery - 21 bucks, 11 does, 6 hogs
Rifle 1 - 25 bucks, 13 does, 11 hogs
Rifle 2 - 15 bucks, 2 does, 13 hogs
Rifle 3 - 4 bucks (3pt, 4pt, 8pt, 8pt), 7 does, 4 hogs

2018 Harvest:
Archery - 8 bucks (one 8 pt, two 7 pt, 1 6 pt, 4 spikes), 5 does, 3 hogs
Rifle 1 - 10 bucks, 2 hogs
Rifle 2 - 4 bucks, 7 does, 1 hog
Rifle 3 - 13 bucks, 8 does, 3 hogs 

2017 Harvest:
Archery - canceled due to Hurricane Harvey
Rifle 1 - 10 bucks, 3 does, 6 hogs
Rifle 2 - 8 bucks (one 8 pt, two 6 pt, one 3 pt, 4 spikes), 3 does, 14 hogs
Rifle 3 - 6 bucks (two 10 pt, two 4 pt, 2 spikes), 6 does, 20 hogs

2016 Harvest:
Archery - 23 bucks, 8 does, 15 hogs
Rifle 1 - 24 bucks, 6 does, 26 hogs

2015 Harvest:
Archery - 18 bucks, 4 does, 8 hogs
Rifle1 - 26 bucks, 6 does, 20 hogs
Rifle2 - 11 bucks, 14 does, 16 hogs
Rifle3 - 8 bucks, 9 does, 39 hogs

Archery Hunt Map

Rifle Hunt Map

Waterfowl Hunting

In addition to the Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction over 12,934 acres of open bay waters, established by Presidential Proclamation in 1938.  Waterfowl hunting is prohibited within the proclamation boundary, which surrounds the Blackjack Peninsula, runs down the middle of St. Charles Bay, across Carlos and Mesquite Bays, and into the West side of San Antonio Bay.  Hunting is allowed on the west side of St. Charles Bay as long as you are not hunting or retrieving ducks on land.

Land and water outside of the Refuge boundary and outside of the proclamation boundary are open in accordance with TX State law.  

For information about waterfowl (and deer) hunting on Matagorda Island, click here.

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