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Mar 25th, 2012
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Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto #6889813
09/17/17 03:27 PM
09/17/17 03:27 PM
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Johnny Rocket Offline OP
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Hi everyone, hunts for Aransas NWR archery was canceled but I was selected for a rifle hunt this year. With Harvey and the devastation it caused to the refuge I'm working if it's even worth it to trek 6 hours?! Some say the deer population was hard hit and will take some time to recover, thoughts?!

Last edited by Johnny Rocket; 09/17/17 03:27 PM.
Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6889964
09/17/17 07:13 PM
09/17/17 07:13 PM
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I rifle hunted the refuge last year and have been doing so about every five years. When Kinsail was issuing the permits you usually could get them anytime you wanted one. I've also bowhunted it for a long time to include the first years, I want to say that was 1966. It is a hard hunt in a good year and possibly akin to Ranger swamp training in a bad year. There is going to be a lot of water and it is going to be tough to navigate this year.

My neighbor went with me last year and he killed a young buck and had a chance at a doe but didn't want to pack it out. Despite killing the buck, he said he would never go back. Funny, that is what most say. I've never known a hunter that killed a deer on his first hunt on the Refuge, yet he killed it on the first morning and still didn't want to go back. He killed the buck about 8:00 in the morning and saw the doe about 1:30 that afternoon. The next day at midday he killed a large boar hog. We sat in our popups all day long the entire hunt, I saw two hogs the first day and didn't want to mess with them and that was it for the remainder of the day. His dad was with us and he didn't see a thing. This is typical.

To help you decide, you might check and see if campground or motels are available. I drive in and out every day as I don't live that far from it but with the number of displaced folks on the coast, you might be in a fix for accommodations. Just a thought.

I personally haven't seen a "large" buck killed on the refuge since 1999, it was an eleven that probably scored in the high 120s or low 130s. The guy killed it on the fourth day about mid-day. He had not seen anything to that point.


Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6890459
09/18/17 03:39 AM
09/18/17 03:39 AM
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Thank you for your input and pointers! I have till the 25th to research and decide, I have hunted public the past two years and have not had any luck here in north Texas... was hoping going south would increase my chances until Harvey came. Was in Houston this weekend to help my dads neighborhood which was hard hit gut out their homes to rebuild. If it was that bad in Houston I can't imagine how the refuge must be.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6890740
09/18/17 02:06 PM
09/18/17 02:06 PM
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Aransas did not have the rain that the Houston area had, but it is normally at a flooded level, so a little is a lot.

Public land is public land no matter where it is, and the refuge system is not like the TPWD's Wildlife Management Areas. They do control the number of hunters but typically at a 1:100 acres level on every hunt they host.

The Refuge boasts a 19,600+ hunt area, but that includes the unhuntable areas made of bayous, lakes, and ponds. Heck, you cannot hunt within 100 yards of a road so that alone eliminates at least 3000 acres by my estimate. I suspect the refuge has 10,000 huntable acres, not counting the unpenetrable brush (I remember a Refuge LEO telling me it was "less than that number"). They are placing 100 hunters per week for three weeks so in effect the pressure has been considerable. My point of this is that it is simply public hunting ground, probably with the same pressure as the other non-WMA units in our State.

If you are hog crazy, it is a great place to hunt. You can leave them where they drop and usually the "Friends of the Refuge" host a hog contest. Entry is documenting your kill in the hunter's log and leaving the tail. Just ask about it when they check your documents entering the refuge. The refuge does do hog control hunts from a helicopter. Last year, the sendero I hunt on was a boneyard. I don't think they were dumped there, I suspect because of the thick brush and once running the hogs stay on the sendero. There were long strings of hog skeletons on this sendero that runs the length of the refuge. I've really not seen anything like what was out there. Kind of freaky. Still, we saw hogs and my neighbor killed one and I could have killed several large hogs. Funny, my neighbor texted me to tell me a large hog was tearing at the back of his popup. I looked down the sendero and yeah, that was happening. He wanted me to shoot it but at 500 yards, any yards for that matter, that was a bad idea. I texted him back that he should shoot it. By that time it had gone back into the brush. Oh, this is a super creepy place, especially in the dark.

Even will leave you with a bit of advice a Refuge employee gave me when we wandered into each other way back in the place. He asked me how I had gotten back in here and I said I'd waded in, very slowly with hip boots. He said, especially, in the dark to always slowly approach the standing water and listen. If the frogs aren't croaking that means the gators are in the water hunting and not to cross. I don't know if I'm more scared of the cottonmouths or gators. They have some darn big snakes!


Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6890792
09/18/17 02:46 PM
09/18/17 02:46 PM
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Belton TX
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I also won 3 spots on the Refuge for mid December. Never hunted this area so looking for any input. Lost my deer/hog lease last year so this is a way to get the wife and son out for a hunt. I have visited the Refuge many years ago as a day trip between fishing trips at POC and Goose Island. Did see one pond with many gators. They typically don't scare me but the thought of having to cross swamp areas invested with them is a different story. I am curious if there is a limitation on caliber rifle for jog hunting. I think I read somewhere that the smallest caliber for deer was 243. I have a 223 Mini 14 that I use for close ranger hog hunting. The son has a 270 but wanted to both be able to hunt. As for camping it appears there are not onsite camping at the Refuge? I am hoping that Goose Island is opened back up by the time of the hunt. Also what do folks do with their kill? Are the processors in the area? Or do you quarter and put on ice?

Any advice would be appreciated.
Charlie

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6891048
09/18/17 06:43 PM
09/18/17 06:43 PM
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put in my time request and giving it a go!

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6891125
09/18/17 07:51 PM
09/18/17 07:51 PM
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The closest camping, RV or tent, is Hopper's Landing just outside the Refuge. They also have some small cabins but I'm not sure how they did, give them a call. That is about it. There is no place in Austwell to eat or buy groceries. I don't think Tivoli has groceries anymore either. I was in Tivoli last Thursday and Canalez Cafe and DQ were both open. The first is small but they do provide some tasty food. The Salvation Army was on the corner of US35 & TX239 handing out food because Tivoli is a mess.

There are no motels within an hour of the refuge.

You will need to download the hunt brochure to see if there are any minimum as far as the hunting arm.

I see both of you guys are new to the forum, welcome! Please, please provide a report of your hunts. Good luck!


Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6891966
09/19/17 02:04 PM
09/19/17 02:04 PM
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Belton TX
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Ranch Dog thanks for the info. By the sounds of it I should not set my expectations very high for a good deer. But the hog hunting sounds good and that will fit the bill as my freezer is running low on sausage. I did read they have a freezer onsite which is a good thing since we will be driving down from the Temple area and camping (somewhere in the area). Plan to go down prior to the hunt to scout the area. Are there dirt roads that are passible through the area to get back into woods?

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6892089
09/19/17 03:46 PM
09/19/17 03:46 PM
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Surfside Beach, TX
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Ranch Dog, you are right about the place being creepy in the dark. I am not usually scared in the dark, but I had one incident at Aransas that almost made me soil my britches.

There was an island in the marsh that a friend showed me on Google Earth and he said that a lot of nice deer would hold up there. On the scouting day, I waded out there and sure enough, I saw a ton of deer sign. The first morning of the hunt, I headed straight there wading through the marsh in the dark. It was warm so the gators were active and the more I thought about it, the more nervous I got. All I had was a pack, an unloaded rifle, and a tiny red headlamp. Right then, a big heron that I didn't see was sleeping on a clump of laid over grass. He let out a huge SQUAK and took off right in front of me. It was all I could do to not scream and run!

It took the better part of an hour to get my heart rate back to normal.

Last edited by Palehorse; 09/19/17 03:47 PM.
Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Palehorse] #6892848
09/20/17 02:27 AM
09/20/17 02:27 AM
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That would do it Palehourse! Last year, I was walking in 900 yards to my setup and with the waist high grass, it is a crazy walk. That brings up a point, you will be completely wet when you get back to where you are going to hunt. Even on high ground. Being right on the coast the grass gets soaked at night.

Because of the grass, a lot of guys hunt from tripods but these are typically repeat hunters that have a good idea where they are going to be. Hauling a tripod is brutal and it is tough to hide them.

I'm surprised that this year's brochure doesn't have a hunt map. Here is last year.



You can see the roads and there is no scale on this map, it is a long way to the southwest end. The blue names and triangles are windmills. These are left over from the cattle grazing lease days (through early '70s) and as far as I have visited, they are all defunct. Of course, water doesn't mean much on the peninsula in that it is everywhere. You must be 100 yards off any of these roads and the brush is very thick.


Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6893591
09/20/17 08:55 PM
09/20/17 08:55 PM
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Garden Ridge
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I was also drawn for this hunt on 12/09-12/13. I plan on finding a place to camp out close by. Thanks for the wealth of information Ranch Dog. If anyone else is going during the same dates and wants to scout around together let me know.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: lucky3] #6893606
09/20/17 09:02 PM
09/20/17 09:02 PM
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Belton TX
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Lucky3 I will be down there those same dates. Plan to go down that Friday for recon but not sure of time at this point. I checked with Hoppers Landing and they are open and accept tent camping so that will be our home base. Taking the boat down and plan to do some duck hunting as well.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6893627
09/20/17 09:19 PM
09/20/17 09:19 PM
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Charlie Tuna, I will check out Hopper's Landing on the tent camping. I'll private message you my cell # in case you or I need anything we will at least know someone in the area.

I've always heard that the duck hunting along the coast is great.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6894012
09/21/17 02:47 AM
09/21/17 02:47 AM
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anyone going November 4-8?!

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Charlie Tuna] #6899804
09/26/17 07:58 PM
09/26/17 07:58 PM
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Santa Fe, TX
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Originally Posted By: Charlie Tuna
Lucky3 I will be down there those same dates. Plan to go down that Friday for recon but not sure of time at this point. I checked with Hoppers Landing and they are open and accept tent camping so that will be our home base. Taking the boat down and plan to do some duck hunting as well.


I got drawn for those dates as well. I'll be camping at Hoppers Landing too. I'll be in an Aliner pop up camper in the tent area. This will be my first rifle hunt there. I did bow hunt there many years ago, but did not kill anything. The mosquitoes were brutal then. I'm hoping by December they won't be too bad. I have a ground blind I can set up. I plan to scout on the 8th as well, and set up my ground blind. I look forward to maybe meeting up with some of you guys down there.


Thanks,

Marty
Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6901073
09/27/17 07:39 PM
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The first guys at Hopper's ought to put up a "THF" sign and group up to swap tales.


Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6922328
10/16/17 04:40 PM
10/16/17 04:40 PM
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I also was draw 4-8. coming from fort worth, we should chat.8176140464 kevin

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6922337
10/16/17 04:46 PM
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I was draw 4-8 hunt, coming from fort worth. if anyone else with those dates wants to share info send me a message. more friends the better kevin

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6922357
10/16/17 05:00 PM
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drawn 4-8 anyone else with those dates send me a message. more friends the better. coming from fort worth. guess I'll be staying at hoppers.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: mley1] #6924063
10/17/17 10:58 PM
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Hi I got drawn 4-8 at Aransas and will be at hopper's in rv area. I will be in a solid white Winnebago maybe we can work together some. I've never layed eyes on the place any help would be appreciated. Hope to see you there. I have a couple openings for a mule deer hunt in January we could discus. Hope to get together, Kevin

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6939748
10/30/17 08:10 PM
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Hi Kevin - My buddy and I were going to stay at hoppers but cabins were all booked, weather was unpredictable so we didnít want to risk it and camp.probably booking a cheap motel/inn in Austwell. We are headed down Thursday night so we can scout Friday and set up our blinds. Weíll only be hunting Saturday and Sunday, heading back to Dallas Sunday night since my buddy has to work..... hope to see you there! -johnny

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6940139
10/31/17 01:16 AM
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Good luck to all of you that have first season! Be sure to let us know what you find out there!

I have the Dec 9-13 dates as well. I plan on camping at Hopperís as well. I spoke to the lady there and she said camping spots are first come first serve. Iíll be looking for the THF flag!

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6946544
11/05/17 01:10 AM
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First day at Aransas and we landed a Spike, Kevin landed a young buck. In the cooler there are a total of 4 deer and 3 hogs. Hunting here is tough unless you have a tripod.... the grass is high from the rains and there are no big trees for tree stands.... we are using pop ups and have a major disadvantage. Deer is everywhere, we just canít see them in the blinds!we got lucky the Spike came next to the blind to eat and didnít scent us

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6946643
11/05/17 02:47 AM
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Congrats! Thanks for the report!

Probably get a tripod at Academy in Victoria, about an hour away.

Last edited by Ranch Dog; 11/05/17 02:48 AM.

Re: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge lotto [Re: Johnny Rocket] #6962831
11/16/17 06:05 PM
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Made at recon trip down on the 11th to check out Hoppers and the Refuge. We have a slot for 9-13 DEC. The visitor office is closed due to the storm, so no one was around to talk to. At the time did not realize the hunter check-in station was down the road a bit. So drove the auto tour route to get a look at the terrain. It ranged from thick brush to open pasture land. Stopped at Jones Lake and did see one large hog and lots of rooting around areas and I mean lots. So the hog hunting should be good. We did see a few doe along the road as well. At Jones Lake there was a 14-16' gator was sunning itself. So there are definitely gators in the area.

As for Hoppers, it is pretty primitive. We tent camped on a grassy area by the water. There is room for many campers in this area. They have a pavilion to get out of the weather and a street lamp close by. No tables under the pavallion, I assume the storm took them away. There is one outside restroom and another in the bar/office. Showers are $3. This is a family run business and they do not seem to be really promoting it. Getting in touch with Adella is hit or miss. I called 3 times and left messages before I left on Friday and finally called a 4th and got her. Camping is cheap, $10, $25 if you want power. I don't believe the cabins are open yet. My son enjoyed the bar area, I only went in to pay the camp fee. There is a fireplace and big screen tv along with several tables. Also there is a separate RV area up the hill that had one camper on it.

So you get what you pay for. The good news it is less than 5 minutes from the Refuge. I did call Goose Island but they are still closed.

We did some duck hunting and got a few. We saw thousands of them in Hynes Bay but they were all congregated in open water. We did our hunting in Guadalupe WMA. Lots of duck there but tough to get in there to hunt. Very swampy.

Took the dogs and they had a blast down there running around in the swamp. Just glad they did not encounter a gator.

Bugs were not too bad on this trip but there was a good breeze most of the time.

Looking forward the December trip, will be at Hopper in a Orange Big Agnes tent.

Charlie

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