Fort Hood’s Sportsmen’s Center will welcome the 2013 hunting season Saturday with a celebratory, family-friendly Hunting and Fishing Day.

“This is our most popular event of the year,” said Judy Johnson, general manager. “It’s been going on for more than 25 years.”

The day will begin with a Fishing Derby at 6:30 a.m. at Cantonment B Pond. Following the competition, the rest of the events will take place at the Sportsmen’s Center. An archery shoot is at 9 a.m., followed by a turkey shoot and turkey calling contest.

The day will end with a barbecue lunch and award ceremony. For each competition, there are adult male, adult female and youth categories. Prizes for the top competitors in each category include gift certificates to local outdoor recreation shops. Every event is free aside from lunch and the turkey shoot.

The Hunting and Fishing Day is a precursor to the beginning of hunting season, which is right around the corner.

Archery season begins Sept. 28, and gun season starts Nov. 5. The seasons run until January, Johnson said.

Fort Hood is rife with game for hunting, including dove, quail, rabbit, squirrel, turkey and deer. Hogs can be hunted year-round, and like rabbits and squirrels, there is no harvest limit. All other game harvest limits are in accordance with Texas law, Johnson said.

The most popular game to hunt at Fort Hood is the whitetail deer, said game warden Don Mathis. He has been hunting on post since he was a child in the 1960s. With more than 220,000 acres of public hunting land, he said Fort Hood is one of the better places to hunt in Central Texas.

“The permit fee for civilians to hunt is $100 a year, and it’s even cheaper for the military,” Mathis said.

Browsing the reflective vests at the Warrior Way Specialty Store, Staff Sgt. Jorge Morales, of 13th Sustainment Command, said he is eagerly awaiting the beginning of the seasons. His largest catch to date is a 12-point buck he shot in 2011, after hunting at Fort Hood for five years.

Anyone is allowed to hunt or fish at Fort Hood with the proper documentation. Hunters and anglers are required to have a Texas state license and Fort Hood hunting or fishing permit, and they must have completed a mandatory hunter’s education course, offered at the Sportsmen’s Center. Civilians can obtain a letter along with their permit, streamlining the process for entering post.

About 70 percent of hunters on post are affiliated with the military. Youth hunters also are prevalent.

“Our goal is to get youth interested in outdoor activities,” Johnson said. Last year, there were 66 youth hunters at the Sportsmen’s Center.

Fishing is allowed year-round at Fort Hood, with a proper permit and license.

Fort Hood regularly stocks 13 ponds with various varieties of bass, catfish, crappie and perch, Johnson said. The post also boasts numerous natural springs, creeks and rivers.

A more than 50-pound catfish is the largest fish caught on post to date.

The Sportsmen’s Center offers activities beyond hunting, including an ATV course, skeet and trap shooting, a pro shop and a private horse stable, currently at capacity with 76 horses. Perhaps the most popular of all is the Sportsmen’s Center Grill.

“We have the best burgers on Fort Hood,” Johnson said.

Herald | Madison Lozano​

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