Mule deer

The winner of the Ultimate Mule Deer Hunt package wins a 3-5 day hunt in the Texas Panhandle. 2015 winner Stephen Knowles took this whopper from Yoakum Dunes WMA.

Deals that sound too sweet to be true usually are.

Not so with Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Big Time Texas Hunts campaign.

Here’s the deal.

Big Time Texas Hunts is TPWD’s rendition of the Texas Lottery. Rather than buying tickets for a popular scratch-off game like Texas Road Trip, Texas hunters are given the opportunity to buy inexpensive chances to win a real road trip to a top-notch hunting destination.

Winners are chosen by random computer drawings. Those selected are awarded premium hunting trips to some of the best private ranches and wildlife management areas in the state.

The BTTH program has 10 categories including a total of 14 different hunts. There are hunts for whitetail deer, mule deer, desert big horn sheep, turkey, waterfowl, dove, exotics, alligator, turkey, pronghorn antelope, pheasant and quail.

Each hunt is guided by professionals. The package hunts also include lodging, food and on-site transportation. In some cases, winners are allowed to bring companions along.

Entering the BTTH sweepstakes is as easy as clicking a button. Chances can be purchased wherever Texas hunting/fishing licenses are sold, by phone, mail or over the Internet.

The cost per entry depends on the method of purchase. In-store, mail and phone entries cost $10. There is a $5 administrative fee for phone-in entries. Online entries are $9 with a $5 administrative fee.

There is no limit on how many chances you can buy. A hunting license is not needed to enter but is required to participate in the hunts. All entrants must be at least 17 years old.

The 2019 season is the 23-year anniversary for the BTTH program, which has proven to be one of best money makers ever introduced by TPWD.

The program has generated more than $15.2 million for the state agency since its inception in 1996. TPWD uses the money to bolster public hunting opportunities and to ramp up wildlife conservation projects all across the state.

Among other projects, BTTH funds have played a key role in the reestablishment of desert bighorn sheep populations in three West Texas mountain ranges.

Participation in the program varies from one year to the next. Last year, there were 94,705 chances sold that generated $871,644 in gross revenue, according to Kelly Edmiston, TPWD public hunting coordinator.

Some hunt categories always pique more interest than others. The Texas Grand Slam hunting package has a rich history as the program’s hottest seller.

The package includes four separate hunting trips for desert bighorn sheep, whitetail deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Edmiston said more than 27,000 Grand Slam entries were sold last year.

“It is a special hunt package,” he said.

What makes the Grand Slam package really special is the desert bighorn sheep hunt. Only a handful of tags for the regal animals are awarded each year. The permits routinely bring upwards of $100,000 in live auctions.

The BTTH program has continued to grow over the years with new categories or twists added regularly. There were no new hunt categories added to the mix for 2019-20, but this year’s winner of the Exotic Safari hunting package will take home a bonus prize including a Ruger American Rifle 300 Win Mag strapped with Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 scope.

Edmiston said $900 rifle/scope were donated by McBride’s Guns of Austin. “How’s that for a deal!” he said.

Entries for the BTTH package went on sale earlier this summer and will continue to be accepted through Oct. 15. Winners will be notified within two weeks following the entry deadline. Each winner has five business days to claim their package.

Here’s a synopsis of this year’s BTTH packages:

Texas Grand Slam: One winner of four separate hunts for big game, with non-hunting companion.

Texas Nilgai Antelope Safari: One winner of a hunt, with one hunting guest.

Texas Exotic Safari: One winner of a hunt for exotics, with one hunting guest.

Texas Whitetail Bonanza: Five winners of a hunt for buck whitetail deer, with each winner permitted to bring one hunting guest.

Texas Waterfowl Adventure: One winner of two separate hunts for waterfowl, with up to three hunting guests on each hunt.

Texas Big Time Bird Hunt: One winner of three separate hunts for game birds, with three hunting guests on the dove and quail hunts and one hunting guest on the spring turkey hunt.

Texas Premium Buck Hunt: One winner of a hunt for buck whitetail deer, with one hunting guest.

Texas Gator Hunt: One winner of a hunt for an alligator, with one hunting guest.

Texas Wild Hog Adventure: One winner of a hunt for feral hog, with up to three hunting guests.

Ultimate Mule Deer Hunt: One winner of a hunt for buck mule deer with one hunting guest.

Ways to enter BTTH

License Vendor: Available wherever fishing/hunting licenses are sold, 1,700 vendors statewide.

Phone: 1-800-895-4248. Pay with MasterCard, Visa, or Discover. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Mail: Download entry form from the TPWD website. Mail check or money order to:

BIG TIME TEXAS HUNTS

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

P.O. Box 17427

Austin, Texas 78760-9946

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email at mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

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