A mere 45 minutes north of the Houston, Texas city limits is the green expanse of Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF). This 162,000 acre forest of southern pine, hardwoods, and shallow creeks gives local hunters an excellent habitat for hunting recreation. The forest supports a rich and diverse wildlife population, including many protected species. Since the Fall of 1998 I've spent many days in the SHNF hunting white-tailed deer, feral hogs, and eastern gray squirrels. Texas residents who possess a valid Hunting License and Annual Public Hunting Permit can hunt legal game throughout the SHNF. The Texas Public Lands Hunting Program provides hunters with access to nearly 1,000,000 acres of land.
HUNTER SAFETY - Guys...please read this carefully. During the 2020 gun hunting season I learned that a guy was gutshot with a high-powered rifle by his hunting partner on the abandoned forest service road that takes me into my favorite east SHNF hunting area. The guy lived but of course his quality of life is dramatically changed. When I learned of this incident it reminded me that there are many people who will be hunting in the SHNF who have little or no experience with firearms, hunting, or knowledge of the woods. This is the reality of hunting public lands. Let me implore you to make sure that you wear hunters orange and are diligent about firearms safety. Muzzle control is a skill that you must master. Never point a loaded weapon at another human being. KNOW (beyond a shadow of a doubt) what you are about to shoot, positively identifying your target, and KNOW what lies beyond your target. NEVER shoot at a sound in the bushes. If you hunt alone, make sure you carry some first aid supplies. If you shoot yourself through the foot, or step in a stump hole and break an ankle, get blinded by a branch slapping you in the eye, or fall from a tree stand.....are you prepared? Do you have a plan to get out of the woods by yourself and make it to a active forest service road? Bottom line - think safety, act safely, be prepared for the unexpected. Suggestion - I have met hunters who are not wearing State-required hunters orange safety clothing (a vest and hat). Please consider carrying an extra vest and hat in your vehicle. If you run across the hunter who is not following hunter safety laws for the SHNF, inform them of the law, and give them the hunter orange safety appearal and insist that they put it on immediately.
IT'S ABOUT RECREATION - If you use the SHNF you will eventually come across other people who are in the forest doing what they enjoy - Birdwatchers, Hikers & Backpackers, Horseback Riders, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and Families out having a day together in the woods. The SHNF is a multi-use Federal property and so you will never know who you might encounter in the forest. A hunter, carrying a rifle, shotgun and/or pistol, can be a startling sight for some people. They might even be fearful of you and consider you to be a threat. YOU REPRESENT ALL HUNTERS when you come across other folks in the forest, so always be calm, respectful, and polite. Smile and say "hello", ask if they need any help or assistance. Go out of your way to help them if they need assistance and leave a good impression.
HUNTING LICENSE & APHP - You must possess a State of Texas Hunting License and Annual Public Hunting Permit to hunt in the National Forest locations in Texas. The water-resistant license document also displays information regarding the tags and permits that you purchased when purchasing your annual hunting license. Upon purchase of the annual public hunting permit you will receive a Map Booklet from the TPWD which contains maps and information regarding each Public Hunting site in the State of Texas. The cost of the Annual Public Hunting Permit is $48.
THE RULES for hunting the SHNF -
1 - You must possess a valid Texas Hunting License.
2 - Your license must include a Annual Public Hunting Permit.
3 - Obey the 10 Rules of Gun Safety and be considerate of others.
4 - Review and know the hunting schedules for your county and game.
5 - You must wear a Hunter Orange front & back vest and headgear.
6 - Do not hunt deer or feral hogs with with hunting dogs in the SHNF WMA.
7 - Be Prepared - carry a map, compass, knife, water and a mobile phone.
8 - Do not start a fire or litter in the SHNF. Do not damage trees in the SHNF.
9 - All-terrain, motorized vehicles are not authorized in most areas of the SHNF.
10 - Do not shoot on, or across, a National Forest System road; or discharge a weapon within 150 yards of a campsite, building, residence, recreation site, or any occupied area. Do not possess buckshot in a Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
REMEMBER - You are forbidden by Federal law to have a loaded weapon in, or on, your vehicle while on a US Forest Service road in the National Forest. This applies to rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Important - Do not place a loaded firearm in, or on, your vehicle while traveling or parked on a US Forest Service road or you will subject to receiving a citation for road hunting, a serious offense. The only exception is for a concealed pistol or revolver possessed by a holder of a current and valid State of Texas-issued License to Carry Handgun permit. Federal agents and State of Texas Game Wardens strictly enforce this law in the Sam Houston National Forest. The simple way for hunters to comply with this law is to load, and unload, your hunting firearm in the forest, away from a US Forest Service road.
REMEMBER - You are required by law to wear an orange vest and orange hat while hunting in the Sam Houston National Forest. For your safety, make sure you obey this important safety-related regulation and wear your hunters orange.
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS - 24 Hour Phone Number for Game Warden Office (281)842-8100. Operation Game Thief (800)792-GAME.
LAW ENFORCEMENT - You will very likely encounter a TPWD Game Warden or US Forest Service Agent if you hunt the SHNF. They are some of the finest and hardest working public servants in the State of Texas. Game Wardens and Agents are on patrol enforcing Texas game laws and Federal laws regarding the use of the National Forest. You will likely encounter a Game Warden when you've completed your hunt and arrive back at your parked vehicle. Be prepared to present your Drivers License or State-issued ID, Hunting License and Annual Public Hunting Permit.
SUGGESTION - Make it a habit to tell a family member or friend what vehicle you will be driving to the SHNF, where you plan to park your vehicle, where you plan to hunt and when you will return.
ANTI-HUNTING ACTIVISTS - There are people who disagree with hunting and have been known to harass hunters in the field. If you are confronted by anti-hunting activists, remain calm. Politely remind them that you are engaging in a lawful activity that is licensed in the State of Texas. Tell them that you respect their right to use the forest and just move on with your hunt. DO NOT verbally abuse, intimidate, threaten, or assault an anti-hunting activist. After moving away, while the event is fresh on your mind, record a physical description of the anti-hunting activists. Record the time, date, location, and details of the encounter. If they assault you or attempt to stop you from hunting, call 911 and request a response by a Texas Game Warden, US Forest Service Officer, and Deputy Sheriff. An accurate record of the encounter is very important to law enforcement officials.