Waterfowl hunting season is coming up once again, and Texas’ hunters are looking forward to getting out to test their luck at bagging a bird. Many hunters head to the reservoirs and rivers throughout the Brazos River basin, as they offer great hunting opportunities and idyllic scenery.
Traditionally, the Brazos River Authority holds in-person drawings for an opportunity to hunt at BRA reservoirs. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BRA recently hosted its first-ever in-house drawing for waterfowl hunting blind spots at BRA reservoirs. These waterfowl drawings are the only hunting opportunity available on BRA-owned land. There are roughly 60 exclusive areas available at the three BRA-owned reservoirs: Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone.
With a total of 524 entries, the inhouse drawings took place on Aug. 31. Each spot available at the three reservoirs were filled. While this drawing format is not what hunters have experienced in the past, the number of entries showed that Texans are ready to go hunting this fall.
Even if you weren’t selected for a blind spot at a BRA reservoir, the rivers and lakes of the Brazos River basin offer great hunting spots for hunters of all ages. Before heading out this fall, here are some refreshers on the hunting regulations and safety tips that you need to know to stay safe and legal when you hunt.
General Safety Tips
Safety starts before you leave for your hunting trip. If something happens, it’s important that someone knows where you’ve planned to go and how long you were planning to be out. Accidents happen. It’s always a good idea to tell someone where and when you are going hunting and when you expect to return.
Water safety is an essential part of waterfowl hunting. Having your boat, including its motor and trailer, serviced before the season will prevent breakdowns during the middle of a hunting trip. Be sure to pack certified personal flotation devices with your boat, along with other safety gear. Ducks Unlimited recommends packing enough food for several days, rope, a flare gun, a space blanket, a hand ax, a compass and a whistle for your waterfowl hunting trips. Bringing your cellphone and putting it in a waterproof plastic bag will allow you to contact someone in case of an emergency.
If you plan on hunting on a large river or lake, be sure your boat is large enough to handle rough water. Water conditions can change rapidly, and having a larger boat will help you navigate challenging waters. If your boat is overloaded, do not attempt to run it.
Texas may not get as cold as other states, but it can become brisk at night. Be sure to pack a waterproof fire-starting kit in your pocket to help keep you warm if you get wet.
Gun safety is arguably the most important aspect of hunting safety. Careless handling of firearms can cause deadly accidents. A good rule to follow is to treat every gun like it’s loaded. Make sure the muzzle of your firearm is always pointed in a safe direction, especially in and around vehicles. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to fire and unload when you are not hunting.
Hunting on the river
Beyond following basic safety tips, there are state laws and regulations that help ensure your safety and that of property owners. The Brazos River and its tributaries are popular hunting spots, and because the river is a public stream, it belongs to all Texans; therefore, you are free to enjoy recreational activities within its banks.
While hunting is generally allowed in Texas riverbeds, it may be prohibited in some areas by local ordinances or statutes. Before heading out to hunt, it’s best to check with local or county governments to see if there are any restrictions. Local game wardens can also tell you if it is lawful to hunt in a specific area. You can find your local game warden by clicking here.
Even though the river is a public stream, hunting in a riverbed can be tricky. Many people live along the riverbanks, and hunters must be mindful of them and their safety. While hunting is allowed in riverbeds, state law prohibits people from firing a weapon onto or across private property without the owner’s approval. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department states:
“It is unlawful to fish on privately-owned waters, fish in public water from private land, or hunt on privately-owned lands without the permission of the owner or the owner’s agent. It is also unlawful to enter property that is agricultural, fenced, posted with a sign(s), or marked (purple paint) without the express permission of the owner (Texas Penal Code §30.05). Posts or trees bearing a purple paint marking of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width and not less than three or more than five feet from the ground, constitute notice that the property is posted.”
Hunters need to be careful where they walk when hunting in the riverbed to avoid violating Texas trespassing laws. Under state law, the riverbed is public property up to the “gradient boundary.” Though the definition of the boundary can be confusing, it roughly means the point where more woody plants begin to grow.
Another hunting regulation states that it is unlawful to “drive a motor vehicle in the bed of a navigable freshwater stream, unless approved by a local river access plan established by a city, county, or river authority.” This regulation helps protect the beauty and vegetation along the river.
To learn more about state hunting regulations, click here.
Hunting on lakes and reservoirs
The lakes within the Brazos River basin are a popular draw for hunters. Whether you secured a blind spot at a BRA reservoir or plan to hunt at another lake, hunters should keep the safety of property owners and visitors in mind as they share in the lakes’ recreational opportunities.
Hunting is not allowed on BRA lands, including leased properties, unless you secured a blind spot through the in-house waterfowl drawing that took place on Aug. 31. Shooting from private property onto the lake, BRA property or other private property without the owner’s permission is not allowed. For BRA lake regulations, please click here.
Understanding general hunting safety tips and regulations will create a safe and fun hunting season for all. Whether you are an experienced hunter or are a beginner, it’s always a good idea to revisit the rules and regulations before every new hunting season. Happy hunting!