KOUNTZE, Texas — The Big Thicket National Preserve started issuing free hunting permits for this season. 

The preserve will start issuing permits Sunday, September 1, Superintendent Wayne Prokopetz said in a news release. Permits will be issued as long as they are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the visitor center until Feb. 29, 2020 for the 2019-2020 hunting season. 

Hunting permits allow hunting whitetailed deer, squirrel, rabbit, feral hog and waterfowl, except in the Lake Bayou Hunting Unit, which is a waterfowl-only area. 

The State of Texas' regular hunting season is October 1, 2019 to January 5, 2020. Feral hogs can still be hunted during an extended hog-only season, which is January 5, 2020 to February 29, 2020. Waterfowl hunting at Lake Bayou is also open until February 29, 2020. 

The visitor center is located eight miles north of Kountze at the intersection of US 69 and FM 420. 

Here's a few guidelines for hunters: 

  • Everyone who hunts in Big Thicket National Preserve must have a Big Thicket hunting permit.
  • You must show your current Texas Hunting License to obtain a Big Thicket hunting permit.
  • All hunters must apply in person and may hunt in only one unit. Parents or guardians are no longer be able to get permits for their children. All hunters must be present to get a permit. 

Hunters who did not return harvest cards for 2018-2019 season will not be eligible to hunt this year, staff said. The deadline to return cards this season is April 1, 2020 and there is no grace period. 

The Big Thicket National Preserve issues permits for each area based on the size of the unit and wildlife management goals. 

Here's how many permits are available for each unit this year: 

  • Beaumont Unit–200
  • Beech Creek Unit–150
  • Big Sandy Creek Unit–400
  • Jack Gore Baygall Unit–400
  • Lance Rosier Unit–900
  • Neches Bottom Unit–150
  • Lake Bayou Unit–50. 

The Big Thicket has nine land units and six water corridors, covering over 113,000 acres. The preserve is often called a "biological crossroads" by researchers who study the area, since it is a transition zone between four vegetation types, the moist eastern hardwood forest, the southwestern desert, the southeastern swamp, and the central prairies. 

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