Texas has no public land to speak of, due to the fact that we kept all of our public land in the treaty that joined us to the Union. Consequently, one must either pay a trespass fee to hunt on private land, or wait to get invited to hunt by a land owner.
Now, I know that this sounds strange to many American hunters. But, consider the fact that when I was a kid we had about 2 million deer in the state. Now our latest estimates put the population at something over 4 million. This is due, primarily, to the ranchers and land owners realizing that deer hunting was a viable source of income for them. It has caused them to be better conservationists and find ways to take care of all wildlife. In addition, our state game department has realized the importance of educating and working with those ranchers to build the deer herds and improve the situation for wild game in general.
Across the country, public lands are being over-hunted and poorly managed. Witness the problem with the re-introduction of wolves and the prohibition on controlling mountain lions in many of our western states. Many feel that the federal government has not been a good steward of much of anything, including the wild game and public land.
So, that appears to be the future of hunting in America. You can certainly hunt public lands and feel lucky if you see one deer, of any kind, throughout your hunt. Or, you can pay for a hunt in Texas—and some other states—and do your hunting on private land where you will have a much better chance of collecting your venison and a trophy. And here, of course, I am talking about free-ranging game. I don’t approve of the canned hunts behind tall fences. That’s not hunting; it is just shooting.
Personally, I come down on the side of the ranchers. I know what it is like to make living on the family ranch today. And I know what the Texas ranchers have gone through during the various droughts and poor financial situations. So I am happy to have conservation-minded ranchers and land owners as my hunting partners. It’s a win-win situation.