Hunting Regulations


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Before your hunting trip to Big Thicket National Preserve, read these regulations and study the map of the preserve unit provided with your permit. Know the areas where you may hunt, and the areas where you may not hunt. State of Texas hunting season dates and regulations apply except where the following Big Thicket National Preserve regulations are more restrictive (Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations).

  • Violations of state law, federal law, and/or these regulations may result in the loss of your hunting permit for the current hunting season, a fine, and/or the suspension or permanent loss of your hunting privileges. [36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  • Notice: Title 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 makes it a crime for any person to knowingly and willfully make to any department or agency of the United States any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations as to any matter within its jurisdiction.

Before you leave on your hunting trip, please inform a relative or friend of your intended point of entry, route of travel, and time of return. While hunting, dress appropriately for changing weather conditions and carry a flashlight, compass, first aid kit, maps, water, and cell phone. Do not cross or park on private property without the consent of the landowner.


Updates for 2021-22 Hunting Season

  • Rabbits may now be taken using air guns or air rifles.
  • White-tailed deer and feral hogs may now be taken using straight-wall centerfire cartridges from a select list of calibers (see regulations for details) during appropriate seasons.

Big Thicket Hunting Regulations

Refer to Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR), Chapter 1, for each hunting regulation's corresponding CFR reference(s).

  1. Types of Game – A Big Thicket hunting permit entitles you to take only white-tailed deer, squirrel, rabbit, feral hog, and waterfowl. [36 CFR 7.85(a)(2)(i); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(2)(ii)]
  2. Hunting Area and Hours – You may hunt in the "hunting area" as shown on the unit map; however, you may not hunt within 500 feet of any designated trail, roadway, or residence. You may not hunt within 500 feet of the following navigable waterways: Neches River, Pine Island Bayou, and designated Texas Paddling Trails, except in the Lake Bayou Unit. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, except in the Lake Bayou Unit (see Lake Bayou Unit Hunting Regulations section). [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  3. Legal Firearms – .17 and .22 caliber rim-fire rifle cartridges are permitted for rabbits, squirrels, and hogs. Air rifles/air guns are permitted for squirrels and rabbits. The use of shotguns, muzzle-loading rifles, and bow-and-arrows are permitted for all game animals. Slugs and buckshot may be used during either the general season or special/extended hog season. Air bows/bow guns are permitted for the take of feral hog. Big Thicket National Preserve adopts the state of Texas definition of "muzzleloader." The following straight-walled centerfire rifle cartridges may be used for white-tailed deer and feral hogs: .350 Winchester Legend, .444 Marlin, .450 Bushmaster, or .45-70 Government. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h); 36 CFR 7.85(d)(1)]
  4. Seasons – The general hunting season in Big Thicket National Preserve begins on the opening day of the state of Texas fall archery-only white-tailed deer season and lasts through the end of the state winter squirrel season in February. Hogs may be taken from the opening date of the state's fall archery-only season until the end of the state winter squirrel season. Waterfowl may be taken from Lake Bayou hunting unit from the opening date of the state's fall archery-only season until the end of the state winter squirrel season. Big Thicket National Preserve observes all youth hunts that occur within the preserve's general season. Hunting at any other time or in any other manner than prescribed in this set of regulations is prohibited. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(1)]
  5. Required Documents – The following items must be in your possession while hunting in the preserve: a current Big Thicket hunting permit; a state of Texas hunting license; and appropriate state and/or federal stamps or documents. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 7.85(c)]
  6. Handguns – Hunters may not use handguns to take game. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  7. Crossbows and Air Rifles/Air Guns – Crossbows and air rifles/air guns are allowed in accordance with state of Texas regulations.
  8. Hunter Education Requirement – Every hunter (including out-of-state hunters) born on or after September 2, 1971 must successfully complete a hunter education training course. Minimum age of certification is 9 years of age.

    If you were born on or after September 2, 1971, and you are:
    • Under 9 years of age, you must be accompanied;
    • Age 9 through 16 years, you must be accompanied at all times even if you have successfully completed the state of Texas hunter education course;
    • Age 17 and older, you must successfully complete a hunter education course; or purchase a "hunter education deferral" and be accompanied.

    Accompanied means: By a person who is at least 17, who is licensed to hunt in Texas, who has passed hunter education (unless born before Sep. 2, 1971 or exempt), and within distance of normal voice communication. Proof of certificate or deferral must be on hand while hunting. For more information on the hunter deferral program, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2)]
  9. Display of Parking/Boat Pass – Each hunter must place the top portion of the hunter parking/boat pass on the vehicle mirror, on the dash, or on the driver's seat of a boat in a clear waterproof storage bag so the permit number is visible. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  10. Special Hog Season – During the special hog hunting season, all hunters will be permitted to take feral hogs from any of the preserve's authorized hunting areas except in the Lake Bayou unit. Take of all other game remains restricted to the unit on your permit. [36 CFR 7.85(2)(d)(1); 36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.69(h)]
  11. Lead Ammunition – "No person, while hunting waterfowl anywhere in the state, may possess shotgun shells containing lead shot or loose lead shot for use in muzzleloaders. Approved shot includes steel, including copper, nickel, or zinc coated steel, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer (e.g., Molyshot), and any other non-toxic material approved by the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service." [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)] Note: For all other game, the use of non-lead ammunition is encouraged in accordance with the National Park Service's efforts to reduce lead in the environment.
  12. Alcohol – Possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage in a unit open to hunting is prohibited. [36 CFR 2.35(a)(3)(i)]
  13. Feeding or Baiting – Feeding or baiting of wildlife is prohibited. Baiting and feeding as defined by the state of Texas means "minerals, vegetative material, or any other food substance placed to lure any wildlife resource." [36 CFR 2.1(a)(2); 36 CFR 2.2(a)(2)]
  14. Dogs – The use or possession of dogs for hunting is prohibited, except for the use of retrievers for retrieving waterfowl. [36 CFR 7.85(a)(3); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(4)]
  15. Wearing Orange – Hunter orange or international orange must be worn and visible at all times while hunting in the preserve. All hunters are required to wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange or international orange while in designated hunting areas, except for waterfowl hunters when stationary in their blinds. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(4)]
  16. Stands and Blinds – Construction or use of permanent stands, blinds, or other structures is prohibited [36 CFR 7.85(a)(4); 36 CFR 5.7]. The preserve will confiscate unmarked and/or unattended deer stands. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  17. Flagging and Marking – Flagging, marking devices, or any other method of marking is prohibited. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  18. Cutting Vegetation – Cutting and/or removal of vegetation for the creation of shooting lanes, hunting blinds, or for any other reason are prohibited. Machetes, axes, saws, or other types of cutting/chopping devices are prohibited. [36 CFR 2.1(a)(ii); 36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  19. Trash – Carry out all trash, including empty shotgun shells. Field dressing of game is allowed within the preserve. [36 CFR 2.14(a)(1)]
  20. Human Waste Burial – Human waste must be buried at least 100 feet from any water source and not within sight of any road or trail. [36 CFR 2.14(a)(9)]
  21. Camping – Camping is prohibited in all hunting areas during the hunting season, with the exception of sandbars along the Neches River within the boundary of the Neches Bottom and Jack Gore Baygall Unit with a backcountry camping permit. [36 CFR 2.10(a)]
  22. Cooking – In established hunting areas, portable cooking stoves are permitted. Ground fires are prohibited. [36 CFR 2.13(a)(1)]
  23. Parking – Park vehicles along roads or in designated parking areas. Do not block gates or roads. [36 CFR 4.13(a)]
  24. Driving Off-Road – Off-road use of motorized vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles (ATV/UTV) and motorcycles, is prohibited. [36 CFR 4.10(a)]

Lake Bayou Unit (Waterfowl-Only) Regulations

  1. Waterfowl-Only – Big Thicket hunting permits for the Lake Bayou hunting unit allow the take of waterfowl within the hunting area as shown on the unit map. No other game, including deer or hogs, may be taken from the Lake Bayou Unit during the general season or special hog season. [36 CFR 7.85(a)(2)(ii)]
  2. Seasons – Lake Bayou may be hunted starting on the opening date of the state's archery-only deer season until the last day of the state winter squirrel season in February; however, species-specific seasons, daily bag limits, and lawful hunting methods follow those published in the Texas Outdoor Annual hunting and fishing regulations booklet. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(1)]
  3. Hunting Hours – Lake Bayou hunting hours last from 30 minutes before sunrise until 12:00 noon. [36 CFR 1.6(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.6(h)]
  4. Blinds, Dogs, and Calling – Floating blinds are permissible but must not be left unoccupied. Retriever dogs are allowed and must remain under control of handlers at all times. Use of calling devices is allowed. [36 CFR 1.69(g)(2); 36 CFR 1.69(h); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(3); 36 CFR 7.85(a)(4)]


To get a hunting permit for the following year, you must reapply during hunting registration, beginning September 1. Your "Hunter's Report" card must be returned by April 1 following the end of hunting season.

For questions about state of Texas regulations, contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

If your permit is lost or stolen, please contact the visitor center at 409-951-6700.

Remember that the preserve is not a hunting lease but is a national preserve and, as such, is used by other members of the public during hunting season. Practice courtesy and safety at all times.


Last updated: October 2, 2021

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6044 FM 420
Kountze , TX 77625



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