It’s hard to find a state better for hunting than Texas. The biggest in the continental US, it has a wide range of game animals including the largest population of whitetail deer in the country. Plus, with easy-to-navigate seasons and relatively inexpensive license fees, it’s no surprise it’s the state with the most paid hunting license holders. If you want to join one of these over a million enthusiastic hunters, make sure you know the dates of the Texas hunting season and other important regulations.
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Texas 2023-2024 Whitetail Deer Hunting Season Dates
The Texas deer hunting seasons are pretty straightforward compared to other states and based on method of take with a couple of extra special seasons. Additionally, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department divides the state into two zones, north and south, as well as a closed zone where hunting is not permitted consisting of El Paso and Hudspeth Counties.
Furthermore, counties have their own regulations regarding dates, bag limits, etc. For instance, the archery season is statewide except for the two counties in the closed zone. The muzzleloader season, however, is restricted to just 90 counties.
|Nov. 4 , 2023- Jan. 7, 2024
|Nov. 4, 2023 – Jan. 21, 2024
|Jan. 8-21, 2024
|Jan. 22, 2024 – Feb. 4, 2024
|Oct. 28-29, 2023 & Jan. 8-21, 2024
|Oct. 28-29, 2023 & Jan. 8-21, 2024
|252 of 254 counties
|Sep. 30, 2023 – Nov. 3, 2023
|90 of 254 counties
|Jan. 8-21, 2024
Texas Bag Limits
In Texas bag limits are determined by individual counties, though there is a statewide bag limit of five whitetail deer, three of which may be bucks.
A buck is defined as any deer with hardened antler or antler covered in velvet protruding through the skin. All other deer are considered “antlerless” regardless of sex. This means that button and spike bucks count toward your buck bag limit.
Since Texas is so extensive and bag limits vary by county, it’s best to look up the limits in the counties you plan to hunt using the Parks & Wildlife Department’s easy online tool.
Texas Deer Hunting License Requirements and Costs
Texas requires anyone of any age hunting any animal, bird, frog or turtle to have a license with the following exceptions:
- Coyotes if they are attacking, are about to attack, or have recently attacked livestock or other domestic animals
- Feral hogs on your own private property or with permission of the owner
- Fur-bearing animals require a trapper’s license rather than a hunting license
- You may hunt or trap furbearers without any license if they are depredating your property, but you may not keep or sell any part of the animal
Considering these requirements, you’ll need a general hunting license for whitetail deer as well as relevant endorsements, which we’ll get into later. License fees are pretty simple with different prices for residents and non-residents like most states.
Texas License Fees
|Resident Hunting License
|Residents age 17-64
|Senior Resident Hunting License
|Residents age 65+
|Youth Hunting License
|Residents or non-residents under age 17
|Non-resident General Hunting License
Combination Licenses and Fees
If you’re interested in more than whitetail deer, there are various combo licenses that provide various licenses and endorsements in one package that saves you time and money over buying all the different licenses and endorsements. The most extensive is the Super Combo which costs $68 and includes:
- Resident hunting license
- Resident fishing license
- Archery endorsement
- Freshwater fishing endorsement
- Saltwater fishing endorsement with red drum tag
- Upland game bird endorsement
- Migratory game bird endorsement
There are other combos, though, so consider your plans for the season and then consult the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department website to find the right option for you.
Lifetime Licenses and Costs
If you plan to hunt for years to come, Texas residents also have the option to purchase a lifetime license. This includes all state endorsements except for the Reptile and Amphibian Endorsement. It costs $1,000 or can be combined with the lifetime fishing license for $1,800 total.
Required Endorsements and Costs
Texas has three endorsements that are required for hunters 17 years old or over:
- Archery Endorsement
- Migratory Game Bird Endorsement
- Upland Game Bird Endorsement
Additionally, there are certain endorsements required in all case that are not included with any license:
- Reptile and Amphibian Endorsement
- Federal Duck Stamp
If you plan to hunt whitetail deer, you’ll need the Archery Endorsement to hunt them during the archery-only season or at any time with a bow in Collin, Dallas, Grayson or Rockwall counties. The endorsement costs $7 for residents and non-residents alike.
Public Hunting Permit
To hunt whitetail deer on public land in Texas, you must purchase a public hunt permit. For both resident and non-residents, this costs $48 and is valid for one year. Other public hunt permits such as daily permits may be required for other game animals.
Hunter Education Requirements
Anyone born on or after September 2, 1971, who wishes to hunt in Texas must complete a hunter education course to get a license. The certification is available for anyone nine years old or over and costs $15.
Those without a hunter education certificate have the following options:
- Hunters under age nine must be accompanied by another licensed hunter aged 17 or older.
- Hunters aged 9-16 may hunt without a license if accompanied.
- Hunters aged 17 or older who do not have a hunter education certification must purchase a “hunter education deferral” for $10 and be accompanied.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Texas?
Texas has very liberal laws when it comes to bowhunting. Nearly anything goes.
Longbows, recurve bows, compound bows and crossbows are all legal with no minimum draw weight or restrictions on bolt or arrow weight or length. There is no minimum broadhead cutting diameter either. Poisoned or explosive tips are illegal, though.
The only exception is that crossbows are not permitted in Collin, Dallas, Grayson and Rockwall counties. Additionally, archery equipment is not permitted during muzzleloader season.
In Texas, you can hunt whitetail deer and other game animals with firearms during the relevant seasons as long as they don’t fall into one of the following prohibited categories:
- Rimfire ammunition
- Fully automatic firearms
There are no restrictions on magazine capacity, though seasons for other game animals may have additional stipulations. During muzzleloader season, you may only use firearms that are loaded with a projectile and powder through the muzzle.
Texas is a unique state in that it provides specific guidance on the use of air guns for hunting. There are different regulations depending on the game animal, but for whitetail deer you may only use a pre-charged pneumatic arrow gun or pre-charged pneumatic air gun.
It must fire a projectile of at least .30 caliber weighing at least 150 grains with a muzzle velocity of at least 800 feet per second. Projectiles not meeting these weight or muzzle velocity requirements are still permitted if they produce at least 215 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.
Air guns and arrow guns are not permitted during archery season.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 in Texas?
You can hunt whitetail deer with an AR-15 in Texas. The original Colt AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle shooting .223 Remington centerfire ammunition, so it doesn’t violate the few firearm restrictions Texas has for deer hunting.
These days, though, many people use the term “AR-15” to refer to a wide range of similarly styled rifles. Some amateur or professional gunsmiths may alter AR-15-style rifles to shoot rimfire ammunition or even automatically, though this is generally illegal. In this case, it would not be permitted for hunting in Texas.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Texas?
Just like in the United States in general, whitetail deer are by far the most popular game animal in Texas. However, Texas has a number of other animals you won’t find in other states, some of them closely related species, including mule deer and pronghorn antelope as well as the more distantly related bighorn sheep.
Mule deer has a general season in two zones. It lasts from November 18, 2023, to December 3, 2023, in the Panhandle Zone and November 24, 2023, to December 10, 2023, in the Trans-Pecos Zone. There’s also an archery season in 59 counties lasting from September 30, 2023, to November 3, 2023.
Pronghorn antelope hunting is by landowner permit only in 41 counties from September 30, 2023, to October 15, 2023.
On top of all this, there are a number of animals closely related to deer that are considered “exotic species.” These are generally conserved and monitored by private ranches and organizations rather than the state. They have no bag limits or restrictions on method of take, though you do need a valid hunting license. These animals include:
- Sika deer
- Fallow deer
- Red deer
- Axis deer
- Nilgai antelope
While most of these animals require paying a private hunting lodge for access, some, elk in particular, are mostly free range. This makes Texas one of the best states in the country for elk hunting.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Texas?
As if all those deer species aren’t enough, Texas has a ton of other animals you can hunt. In addition to other species of exotic game raised on private hunting reserves, the Parks & Wildlife Department manages seasons for:
- Javelina (wild boar)
- Upland game birds
- Migratory game birds
- Rails, gallinules and moorhens
- Sandhill cranes
To consult the season dates for these animals, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.